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the  Class  of  1901 

founded  by 




;ii  ;.  YH  /  .a  >  /,  . 

COPYRIGHT,    1909,    AND   1910,   BY  EDGAR  T.   WELLES 


Published  October  tqn 


IT  was  the  custom  of  my  father  all  his  life  to  keep  a  diary. 
He  was  a  prolific  writer  on  political  subjects  and  his  even- 
ings were  generally  spent  with  his  pen  in  his  hand.  When 
in  Washington,  it  was  his  habit  in  the  evening,  after  the 
family  had  retired,  to  devote  his  time  to  writing  in  the 
diary.  His  public  duties  at  that  period  gave  him  no  time 
to  devote  to  the  miscellaneous  writings  to  which  he  had 
been  accustomed.  But  in  the  diary  are  expressed  his  views 
on  public  men  and  measures,  not  only  of  the  day  but  also 
those  gathered  throughout  his  public  life.  It  was  a  relaxa- 
tion to  him  to  write ;  in  fact,  being  thoroughly  accustomed 
to  it,  it  was  a  pleasure. 

The  question  of  the  publication  of  this  diary  has  caused 
me  much  serious  reflection.  It  is  an  unreserved  expres- 
sion of  what  was  from  day  to  day  in  the  mind  of  the  writer. 
He  probably  thought  that  it  would  be  useful  as  a  record 
of  the  events  of  the  time.  Certainly  he  did  not  think  it 
would  be  wholly  unheeded. 

But  his  expressions  were  not  shaped  by  the  considera- 
tion that  it  would  be  given  to  the  world  or  would  not  be; 
the  decision  of  that  question  he  left  to  me.  Accordingly,  I 
have  taken  the  advice  of  those  in  whom  I  know  my  father 
would  have  the  most  implicit  confidence,  submitting  the 
material  for  consideration  and  review.  Without  exception, 
I  believe,  the  decision  has  been  that  duty  requires  of  me 
the  publication,  and  the  truth  of  history  demands  that 
under  no  circumstances  must  I  fail  to  make  this  record 
public.  It  had  seemed  to  me  that  the  free  criticism  and 
personal  allusions  should  have  been  hi  some  degree  elim- 


inated,  but  the  advice  of  the  most  eminent  authorities  has 
been  adverse  to  any  omission.  I  should  have  much  pre- 
ferred it  otherwise,  but  have  yielded  to  those  to  whose 
judgment  I  should  defer.  A  few  strong  expressions,  purely 
personal  and  private,  have  been  omitted,  but  the  omis- 
sion has  always  been  indicated  and  the  reader  may  have 
full  confidence  that  the  text  of  the  diary  has  been  hi  no 
way  mutilated  or  revised. 

I  desire  to  express  my  obligations  to  the  publishers  for 
their  careful  and  painstaking  work.  Too  much  credit  can- 
not be  given  them  for  their  labors  and  the  result. 






The  Expedition  for  the  Relief  of  Sumter  —  Mr.  Seward's  Interference 
— Porter  and  Barren  —  The  Relief  of  Fort  Pickens  —  Conversation 
with  Senator  Douglas  —  Mr.  Seward's  Intrigues  —  The  Loss  of  the 
Norfolk  Navy  Yard  —  The  Appointment  of  Stanton  as  Secretary  of 
War  —  The  Relations  of  Seward  and  Stanton  —  Fear  of  the  Merri- 
mac  in  Washington  —  "  Stanton's  Navy  " 3 


JULY  AND  AUGUST,   1862 

The  President  broaches  the  Subject  of  Emancipation  —  Navy  Depart- 
ment Worries  —  Commodore  Wilkes  —  Disappointed  Officers  — 
Seward's  Assumption  of  Authority  —  How  Lincoln  chose  his  Cabi- 
net —  The  Army's  Failure  to  cooperate  —  The  Military  Theory  of 
Frontiers  —  Promotion  of  W.  D.  Porter  —  Proposed  Line  of  Gun- 
boats on  the  Ohio  —  The  Cabal  against  McClellan  —  Stanton  on 
McClellan  —  The  Need  of  Better  Generals 70 


SEPTEMBER,   1862 

After  the  Second  Battle  of  Bull  Run  —  Another  Anti-McClellan  Paper 

—  The  Opinion  about  General  Pope  —  Wilkes  and  McClellan  — 
McClellan's  Remarks  about  South  Carolina  and  Massachusetts 

—  The  Bickerings  of  the  Generals  —  The  President's  Opinion  of 
McClellan  and  Pope  —  Rumors  of  a  Proposed  Revolution  —  An 
Estimate  of  Halleck  —  Panic-Stricken  New  York — A  Scheme  to  de- 
port Slaves  to  Chiriqui  —  The  "  West  Point "  Policy  —  An  Estimate 
of  Stanton — Lincoln's  Deference  to  Seward  —  The  Administration  of 
the  Departments  —  The  Want  of  a  Military  Policy  —  Lincoln  and 
Seward  —  How  Cabinet-Meetings  were  conducted  —  The  Rivalry 
of  Seward  and  Chase  —  News  of  Antietam  —  Dismissal  of  Com- 
mander Preble  —  The  Emancipation  Proclamation  read  to  the 
Cabinet  —  Senator  John  P.  Hale  —  Chase's  Financial  Policy  — 


Chase's  Opinion  of  Stanton  —  The  Chiriqui  Scheme  —  New  York 
Politics  —  European  Efforts  to  break  the  Blockade 100 



D.  D.  Porter  appointed  to  the  Western  Flotilla  —  Porter,  Davis,  and 
Dahlgren  —  The  Cabinet  on  Emancipation  —  Admiral  Du  Pont  — 
Stanton's  Threat  to  resign  —  Dahlgren's  Ambitions  —  The  Norfolk 
Blockade  —  The  Currency  Question  —  Stuart's  Raid  —  Spanish 
Claims  as  to  Maritime  Jurisdiction  —  The  Case  of  the  Steamer 
Bermuda  —  General  Scott's  Influence  at  the  Beginning  of  the  War 
—  The  Question  of  raising  the  Norfolk  Blockade  —  A  Hoax  on 
Seward  —  Transfer  of  the  Mississippi  Fleet  to  the  Navy  —  Seward 
and  the  Mails  captured  on  Blockade-Runners 157 

DECEMBER,   1862 

A  Private  Grief  —  Burnside  succeeds  McClellan  in  Command  of  the 
Army  of  the  Potomac  —  The  Modification  of  the  Norfolk  Blockade 

—  The  Annual  Report  of  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy  —  The  Question 
of  New  Navy  Yards  —  Count  Gurowski  and  his  Book  —  Com- 
mander Preble's  Case  —  The  Division  of  Virginia  —  A  Roundabout 
Proceeding  of  Seward's  —  Seward's  Resignation  and  the  Discussion 
in  Regard  to  it  —  Chase  tenders  his  Resignation  and  the  President 
sees  a  Way  out  —  Cabinet  Rivalries — Seward  and  Chase  requested 
to  withdraw  their  Resignations  —  Depredations  of  the  Alabama  — 
Cabinet  Discussion  of  the  West  Virginia  Question  —  Butler  super- 
seded by  Banks  at  New  Orleans  —  The  Party  Spirit 182 



The  Emancipation  Proclamation  —  The  Battle  of  Murfreesborough  — 
Loss  of  the  Monitor  —  Criticisms  of  the  Navy  Department  —  Hal- 
leek's  Deficiencies  —  The  Employment  of  the  Contrabands  —  John 
Covode's  Gubernatorial  Aspirations  —  The  Pernicious  Party  Spirit 

—  McClernand  and  Vicksburg  —  The  Court  Martial  on  Fitz  John 
Porter  —  The  New  London  Navy  Yard  Question  —  Confederate 
Letters  —  Fitz  John  Porter's  Conviction  —  A  Call  from  F.  A. 
Conkling  —  The  Gauge  of  the  Pacific  Railroad  —  Hooker  placed  in 
Command  of  the  Army  of  the  Potomac — An  Estimate  of  Farragut  — 
"Weed  is  Seward,  and  Seward  is  Weed  "  —  Governor  Morgan  elected 
Senator  from  New  York  —  Reported  Pressure  for  Mediation  on  the 


Part  of  the  French  Government — Proposed  Attack  on  Charleston 

—  Chase's  Bank  Bill  —  The  Senate  rejects  the  Reappointment  of 
Collector  Howard  —  Irregular  Acts  of  the  President  —  Scene  be- 
tween Scott,  McClellan,  and  Seward 212 



Closing  Hours  of  Congress  —  A  Call  from  Senator  Dixon  —  Proposed 
Issue  of  Letters  of  Marque  —  Delay  in  the  Attack  on  Charleston  — 
Impending  War  with  England  —  Conversations  with  Sumner  about 
the  Letters  of  Marque  —  Conversation  with  the  President  on  the 
Subject  of  Letters  of  Marque  and  the  Attitude  of  England  —  Talk 
with  Seward  on  the  Relation  of  the  Navy  Department  to  the  Letters 
of  Marque  —  The  First  Application  for  Letters  of  Marque  —  The 
Expected  Attack  on  Charleston  —  News  of  Repulse  at  Charleston 

—  The  Peterhoff 's  Mails  —  Commander  Rhind  and  the  Ironclads 
at  Charleston  —  The  Elletts  and  the  Ram  Fleet  —  Du  Font's  Fail- 
ure at  Charleston  —  The  President  takes  a  Hand  in  the  Peterhoff 
Contention — Blockade-Runners  on  the  Rio  Grande  —  Du  Pont's 
Vanity  and  Weakness  —  Sumner's  Conversation  with  Lord  Lyons 

on  the  Peterhoff  Matter 244 


MAY,   1863 

Conversation  with  Attorney-General  Bates  on  the  Captured  Mails  — 
John  Laird's  Statement  in  Parliament  —  Waiting  for  News  from 
Hooker  —  Rumors  of  the  Battle  of  Chancellorsville  —  Disappoint- 
ment at  the  News  —  Stonewall  Jackson's  Death  —  Recall  of  Wilkes 
from  the  West  India  Squadron  —  Earl  Russell's  Speech  on  Ameri- 
can Affairs  —  Sumner's  Talk  with  Seward  about  Mr.  Adams  and 
the  Secretary  of  Legation  at  London  —  Conversation  with  the  Pre- 
sident on  the  Subject  of  Captured  Mails  —  Du  Pont's  Charges 
against  Chief  Engineer  Stimers  —  Du  Pont  before  Charleston  — 
His  Shortcomings  and  the  Question  of  superseding  him  —  Deplor- 
able Conditions  in  the  South  —  Foote  succeeds  Du  Pont  in  Com- 
mand of  the  South  Atlantic  Squadron  —  Dahlgren  declines  to  be 
Second  in  Command 290 


JUNE,   1863 

The  Arrest  of  Vallandigham  and  the  Case  of  the  Chicago  Times  —  The 
Removal  of  Wilkes  —  Count  Gurowski  on  Welles's  Appointment 


to  the  Cabinet  —  General  Milroy  at  Winchester  —  The  President 
and  the  Cabinet  kept  in  Ignorance  of  Army  Movements  —  Lack  of 
Confidence  in  Hooker  —  Alarm  at  Rumors  of  Confederate  Advance 
into  Pennsylvania  —  The  President  calls  for  100,000  Volunteers  — 
The  President's  Opinion  of  "  Orpheus  C.  Kerr"  —  Illness  of  Admiral 
Foote  —  The  Secretary  of  State  and  the  Matamoras  Situation  — 
Sumner's  Opinion  of  Hooker  —  Appointment  of  Dahlgren  to  the 
South  Atlantic  Squadron  in  Foote's  Place  —  The  French  Tobacco 
in  Richmond  —  Estimate  of  Dahlgren  —  The  Monitors  and  the 
Fifteen-Inch  Guns  —  Founding  of  the  Army  and  Navy  Gazette  — 
—  Congratulations  to  Commodore  Rodgers  on  the  Capture  of  the 
Fingal  —  The  President  betrays  Doubts  of  Hooker  —  Blair  on 
the  Presidential  Aspirations  of  Chase  and  McClellan  —  Death  of 
Admiral  Foote  —  His  Lifelong  Friendship  with  Welles  —  Needless 
Alarm  for  the  Safety  of  New  York  —  Meade  succeeds  Hooker  — 
Rumors  of  Confederate  Raids  near  Washington  —  Lee's  Advance 
into  Pennsylvania .  .  .  319 

JULY,   1863 

First  Reports  of  the  Battle  of  Gettysburg — Stanton  accused  by  McClel- 
lan of  sacrificing  the  Army  —  F.  P.  Blair  on  Stanton's  Early  Seces- 
sionist Sympathies  —  Stanton's  Treachery  toward  the  Buchanan 
Administration  —  Seward's  Intrigues  —  His  Misconception  of  the 
War  —  Later  News  from  Gettysburg  —  Vice-President  Stephens's 
Proposed  Mission  to  Washington  —  Intercepted  Confederate  Dis- 
patches —  Cabinet-Meeting  on  Stephens's  Mission — Meade  linger- 
ing at  Gettysburg  —  The  Fall  of  Vicksburg  —  Lincoln's  Receipt  of 
the  News  —  Rejoicings  over  Gettysburg  and  Vicksburg  —  Vice- 
President  Hamlin's  Request  for  a  Prize  Court  at  Portland  —  Some 
of  the  Generals  Content  to  have  the  War  continue  —  Draft  Riots  — 
The  President's  Dejection  at  the  Failure  of  Meade  to  capture  Lee's 
Army  —  The  Draft  Riots  in  New  York  —  Lee  recrosses  the  Poto- 
mac —  Prospects  of  an  Early  Ending  to  the  War  —  An  Estimate 
of  Jefferson  Davis  —  Calhoun  and  Nullification  —  Senator  Hale's 
Hostility  —  Downfall  of  the  Mexican  Republic  —  Impressions  of 
Colonel  Rawlins  of  Grant's  Staff  —  Grant's  Dissatisfaction  with 
McClernand  .  354 


AUGUST,   1863 

Refutation  of  Laird's  Statement  as  to  an  Application  from  the  Navy 
Department  —  The  President  refuses  to  postpone  the  Draft  — 
Connection  of  Howard  of  Brooklyn  with  the  Laird  Matter  —  The 


Provisions  of  the  Draft  Act  discussed  in  Cabinet  —  General  Halleck 
and  the  Almaden  Mines  —  The  President  adopts  Seward's  Views 
as  to  Instructions  to  Naval  Officers  —  The  President's  Letter- Writ- 
ing —  The  Ironclads  not  to  leave  England  —  A  Confidential  Com- 
munication from  Seward  —  Assistant-Secretary  Fox  and  the 
Howard  Affair  —  Conversation  with  Chase  on  the  Subject  of 
Slavery  —  General  Meade  meets  the  Cabinet  —  Suggestions  from 
Boston  —  General  F.  P.  Blair's  Account  of  the  Vicksburg  Campaign 
—  Injustice  of  the  Draft  Act  —  A  Letter  from  North  Carolina  — 
Solicitor  Whiting's  Schemes  for  dealing  with  Slavery  —  Death  of 
Governor  Gurley  of  Arizona  —  Conversation  with  Chase  on  the 
Reconstruction  of  the  Union  —  Secession  of  the  States  not  to  be 
recognized  —  Death  of  Commander  George  W.  Rodgers — The  Case 
of  the  Mont  Blanc  —  Toombs  on  Southern  Conditions  —  The  Sec- 
i  retary  of  the  Navy  placed  by  Seward  in  a  False  Position  as  to  Move- 
ments against  the  English  Cruisers  —  The  Subject  of  Reunion  .  .  393 


SEPTEMBER,   1863 

Return  from  a  Tour  among  the  Navy  Yards  —  Abuse  of  the  Writ  of 
Habeas  Corpus  in  Connection  with  the  Draft  —  The  President  sus- 
pends the  Writ  on  Military  Questions  —  Newspaper  Alarm  over 
the  Ironclads  building  in  England  —  Seward  communicates  the 
Assurances  of  the  British  Ministry  in  regard  to  the  Rams  —  The 
News  of  Chickamauga  —  The  President  laments  the  Inefficiency  of 
the  Generals  —  The  President's  Opinion  of  Farragut  —  The  Fail- 
ure at  Sabine  Pass  —  The  English  Government  prevents  the  Laird 
Ram  from  coming  out  —  The  Russian  Fleet  arrives  at  New  York  — 
Reinforcing  Rosecrans  —  An  Irregular  Proceeding  of  Seward's  — 
The  Conduct  of  the  Generals  at  Chickamauga  —  A  Report  about 
the  Laird  Ram  .  .  431 


OCTOBER,   1863 

Slow  Progress  at  Charleston  —  Letter  to  the  President  in  Reference  to 
Instructions  to  Naval  Officers  —  Seward  refers  the  Spanish  Claim 
of  Maritime  Jurisdiction  to  the  King  of  Belgium  —  Conversation 
with  Admiral  Milne  of  the  British  Navy  —  A  Political  Letter  of 
McClellan's  —  The  Ohio  and  Pennsylvania  Elections  —  Lincoln's 
Magnanimity  to  Meade  —  General  Sickles's  Account  of  Gettysburg 
—  Meade's  "Strategy"  —  The  Unaccredited  Minister  from  Vene- 
zuela desires  to  purchase  a  Naval  Vessel  —  General  Terry  and 
Colonel  Hawley  on  Dahlgren  —  An  Unjust  Complaint  from  Admiral 
Du  Pont  .  .  449 



DECEMBER,   1863 

The  Writing  of  the  Secretary's  Annual  Report  —  The  Russian  Fleets 
sent  into  American  Waters  for  the  Winter  —  Entertaining  the  Rus- 
sian Officers  —  Colfax  elected  Speaker  of  the  House  over  Wash- 
burne  —  Senatorial  Opposition  to  John  P.  Hale  as  Chairman  of  the 
Naval  Committee  —  Brandegee's  Appointment  to  the  House  Naval 
Committee  —  Plain  Speech  with  Senator  Hale  —  Insubordination 
of  Commodore  Wilkes  —  Rebel  Letters  captured  on  Board  the 
Ceres  —  The  Plot  of  Trowbridge,  Briggs,  Lamar,  and  Cavnach  — 
Louis  Napoleon's  Attitude  —  The  Turret  Vessels  gaining  Friends  — 
The  Department's  Policy  in  Regard  to  Ships  —  Conversation  with 
Senator  Doolittle  on  Trade-Permits  and  Presidential  Candidates  — 
Sailors  enticed  into  the  Army  —  The  Year  closes  more  satisfactorily 
than  it  began 479 


JANUARY,   1864 

An  Estimate  of  Sumner  —  The  Charges  against  Engineer-in-Chief 
Isherwood  —  Lincoln  and  Seward  on  Clay  and  Webster  —  Conver- 
sation with  the  Elder  Blair  and  Governor  Dennison  —  Discussion 
in  the  Cabinet  as  to  opening  Additional  Ports  in  the  South  —  Criti- 
cism of  the  Navy  Department  —  Moses  H.  Grinnell  and  his  Rela- 
tions with  the  Department  —  The  Finding  of  the  Court  of  In- 
quiry on  Wilkes's  Letter  —  John  P.  Hale  tells  of  Charges  of  Mis- 
management in  Connection  with  the  Cherokee  and  R.  B.  Forbes  .  501 


FEBRUARY,    1864 

Donald  McKay  compliments  the  Navy  Department  —  The  War  De- 
partment suspected  of  instigating  Attacks  on  the  Navy  Department 
—  The  President  on  the  Dominican  Question  —  A  Talk  with  Chase 
on  Financial  Matters  and  the  Charleston  Situation  —  The  Pre- 
sident as  a  Politician  —  A  Pleasant  Half -Hour  with  Preston  King  — 
An  Estimate  of  the  Man  —  Chase's  Use  of  the  Treasury  Machinery 
to  further  his  Presidential  Aspirations  —  The  Departmental  Char- 
acter of  the  Administration  —  Carpenter's  Picture  of  President 
Lincoln  and  his  Cabinet  —  The  President  greets  an  Admirer  — 
Chase's  Electioneering  —  A  Secret  Expedition  to  Florida  —  Move- 
ment on  Behalf  of  Retired  Naval  Officers  518 



MARCH,   1864 

General  Blair  attacks  Chase  in  the  House  —  Solicitation  for  Political 
Subscriptions  —  Urging  the  Promotion  of  Colonel  Hawley  —  Good 
News  of  Colonel  Dahlgren  —  Chase's  Attitude  as  to  Permits  and 
Trade  Regulations  —  News  of  Ulric  Dahlgren's  Death  —  Grant  at 
the  President's  Reception  —  Grant  receives  his  Commission  as 
Lieutenant-General  —  An  Impression  of  Grant  —  The  Exposure  of 
Contract  Frauds  —  The  New  Draft  for  200,000  Men  discussed  in 
the  Cabinet  —  A  Call  from  Solicitor  Whiting  —  The  Scarcity  of 
Seamen  for  the  Navy  —  Conversation  with  Admiral  Dahlgren  on 
General  Gillmore  —  Conversation  between  Seward  and  the  Artist 
Carpenter  on  the  Great  Events  of  the  Administration  ....  533 


GIDEON  WELLES Photogravure  frontispiece 





From  the  Painting  by  Francis  Bicknell  Carpenter. 






GEORGE  G.  MEADE       404 



MR.  WELLES  was  in  his  fifty-eighth  year  at  the  time  of 
his  entry  into  the  Cabinet  of  President  Lincoln,  at  which 
point  these  volumes  take  up  the  story  of  his  life.  A  brief 
account  of  what  he  had  done  during  these  preceding  years 
will  have  at  least  the  interest  of  displaying  what  prepara- 
tion and  equipment  he  brought  to  the  important  office 
which  he  was  called  upon  to  fill. 

His  earliest  American  ancestor  escaped  the  distinction 
of  being  one  of  the  Mayflower  band  by  only  a  very  few 
years;  he  arrived,  however,  in  time  to  take  part  in  the 
settling  of  Hartford,  becoming  "  identified  with  its  fortunes 
as  early  as  1636";  and  serving  as  Treasurer,  and  later  as 
Governor,  of  the  Colony.  Upon  an  estate  in  Glastonbury, 
bought  by  this  ancestor  from  the  Indians,  Gideon  Welles 
was  born  July  1, 1802.  He  was  educated  at  the  Protestant 
Episcopal  Academy  at  Cheshire,  and  at  Norwich  Univers- 
ity. Afterward  he  studied  law,  and  the  mental  influence 
of  this  training  was  plainly  perceptible  throughout  his 
active  life,  though  he  left  the  profession  so  early  as  Janu- 
ary, 1826.  He  then  took  charge  of  the  Hartford  Times,  a 
Democratic  sheet,  which  soon  afterward  gave  its  influence 
in  behalf  of  Andrew  Jackson  for  the  Presidency.  This  act 
of  political  friendship,  and  the  prominence  of  Mr.  Welles 
in  party  politics  in  Connecticut  naturally  led  to  his  becom- 
ing Jackson's  chief  adviser  in  the  local  affairs  of  that  State. 
He  continued  his  editorial  labors  so  long  as  his  leader 
remained  in  the  White  House;  also  occupying  collater- 
ally the  position  of  Representative  from  Glastonbury  in 
the  State  legislature  from  1827  to  1835.  We  are  told  that 
in  matters  political  his  "sagacity  seemed  to  be  almost 
unfailing."  Certainly  his  views  were  liberal  and  progress- 
ive, in  evidence  whereof  is  the  fact  that,  when  the  Supreme 


Court  of  the  State  held  that  a  disbeliever  in  a  future  state 
of  rewards  and  punishments  was  incompetent  as  a  witness, 
Mr.  Welles  led  a  persistent  and  at  last  successful  struggle 
for  legislation  which  reduced  this  requirement  of  faith  in 
heaven  and  hell  as  a  basis  of  credibility  to  the  more  mod- 
erate dimension  of  belief  in  a  God.  He  further  aided  in 
effecting  the  abolition  of  imprisonment  for  mere  debt. 
Under  Van  Buren,  from  1836  to  1841,  he  was  Postmaster 
at  Hartford,  which  was  then  the  central  office  for  the  dis- 
tribution of  the  mail  throughout  New  England.  In  1842, 
he  was  elected  by  popular  vote  to  the  office  of  State  Comp- 
troller, and  in  1843  was  reflected.  In  1846  he  was  ap- 
pointed by  Polk  to  be  Chief  of  the  Bureau  of  Provisions 
and  Clothing  for  the  Navy,  and  held  the  place  till  the  sum- 
mer of  1849. 

With  the  administration  of  Polk  and  the  annexation 
of  territory  as  a  result  of  the  Mexican  War,  the  slavery 
question  became  predominant  in  national  politics.  Thus 
far  Mr.  Welles  had  been  a  Democrat  and  a  democrat,  alike 
with  the  capital  D  and  with  the  small  letter.  There  is 
a  very  material  difference  between  these  two  words,  Demo- 
crat and  democrat,  though  proof-readers  have  not  always 
been  awake  to  the  important  distinction.  The  party  of 
that  name  has  adopted  President  Jefferson  as  at  least  the 
most  distinguished  expounder,  if  not  the  founder  of  the 
American  variety  of  their  political  creed.  Yet  Jefferson 
was  democratic  only  with  very  large  reservations;  he 
excited  Hamilton  to  frenzy  by  his  extravagant  preach- 
ments about  the  rule  of  the  masses,  but  in  fact  he  never 
had  a  suspicion  that  the  ruling  masses  could  be  so  wrong- 
headed  as  not  to  take  their  doctrines  from  gentlemen  of 
intelligence  like  himself,  and  he  assumed  as  basic  matter 
of  course  that  the  common  people  would  have  the  common 
sense  to  select  presidents,  governors,  and  rulers  generally 
from  that  class  of  the  community  whose  superior  fitness 
for  these  functions  Mr.  Jefferson  regarded  as  a  postulate. 
Genuine  democracy  found  its  way  into  the  Presidency  with 


Andrew  Jackson.  But  when,  later  on,  the  Democracy,  as 
a  political  party,  became  the  party  of  the  Southern  slavo- 
cracy,  it  certainly  had  no  longer  any  right  to  use  the  adjec- 
tive with  the  little  d;  on  the  contrary  it  had  the  honesty, 
or  the  pride,  to  boast  itself  to  be  the  party  of  aristocracy. 
At  the  same  time,  however,  it  retained,  because  it  found 
very  useful,  the  old  Democratic  doctrines  of  State  rights 
and  of  strict  construction  of  the  Constitution.  A  practical 
concrete  problem,  however,  was  now  coming  into  entire 
possession  of  men's  minds  to  the  exclusion  of  all  else. 
There  were  no  survivals  of  old  questions,  and  political 
theories  and  principles  had  either  to  prove  themselves 
malleable  or  to  be  rejected  by  their  old-time  followers, 
when  the  perpetuation  and  therefore  the  extension  of 
Slavery  came  to  the  front.  There  was  a  new  alignment 
throughout  the  Northern  half  of  the  country,  and  at  once 
multitudes  of  independent  men,  refusing  to  be  controlled 
by  a  political  misnomer,  crossed  over  from  the  slavocratic 
and  aristocratic  Democracy  to  the  new,  humanitarian,  and 
democratic  Republicanism.  There  was  no  use  in  raising 
the  cry  of  apostasy;  for  the  apostates  were  too  numerous 
and  too  respectable  to  be  described  by  so  discreditable  a 
name;  and,  moreover,  it  was  quite  obvious  that  no  political 
consistency  compelled  a  Democrat  under  Jackson  and  Van 
Buren  to  remain  a  Democrat  under  Pierce  or  Buchanan. 
There  was  certainly  no  continuity  or  succession  between 
the  destruction  of  the  Bank  of  the  United  States,  for  ex- 
ample, and  the  repeal  of  the  Missouri  Compromise. 

The  infusion  of  a  great  moral  issue  into  politics,  which 
ordinarily  have  little  enough  to  do  with  the  moralities, 
inevitably  changed  the  point  of  view  for  any  man  who  felt 
the  old  Puritan  conscience  strong  within  him.  In  the  cus- 
tomary run  of  public  business,  the  average  man  embarks 
on  board  his  party  as  on  board  a  ship  for  a  long  voyage, 
and  does  not  get  off  at  the  first  port  because  he  has  not 
always  been  entirely  delighted  with  all  the  arrangements; 
if,  however,  he  wants  to  go  north  and  he  finds  that  the 


captain  is  sailing  south,  he  is  likely  to  take  the  first  oppor- 
tunity of  parting  company.  Thus  it  very  naturally  came 
about  that  the  democratic  Gideon  Welles,  being  a  clear- 
headed, independent,  and  conscientious  person,  ceased  to 
be  a  Democrat,  and  became  a  Republican.  Moreover,  in  a 
certain  way  it  might  be  argued  that  consistency  itself  led 
him  to  this  action,  for  the  theory  of  State  rights,  always 
advocated  by  him,  involved  the  repudiation  of  the  Demo- 
cratic move  for  the  establishment  of  slavery  in  the  Terri- 
tories under  cover  of  the  national  authority,  this  being  the 
sure  basis  and  pre judgment  for  its  establishment  in  the 
later  development  of  the  State. 

The  change  of  political  allegiance  induced  no  change  of 
occupation,  and  Mr.  Welles  now  became  a  contributor  to 
the  Hartford  Evening  Press,  which  was  designed  to  be  the 
organ  of  Republicanism  in  the  State.  In  1856  he  had  the 
courage,  as  Republican  candidate  for  Governor,  to  face 
sure  defeat  in  a  cause  in  which  he  believed.  About  the 
same  time,  by  choice  of  the  Republican  Convention  which 
assembled  in  Philadelphia,  he  entered  upon  what  proved 
to  be  an  eight  years'  term  of  service  as  a  member  of  the 
Republican  National  Committee;  also  he  was  chairman 
of  the  delegation  from  his  State  to  the  Convention  at 
Chicago  which  nominated  Abraham  Lincoln. 

President  Lincoln's  courteous  patience  in  listening  to 
advice,  and  his  desire  always  by  consultation  to  get  the 
benefit  of  suggestions,  obscured  for  a  while  in  the  public 
eye  his  underlying  self-reliance  and  the  independence  of  his 
ultimate  judgment.  The  suspicion  that  his  course  was 
often  steered  by  another  hand  than  his  own  has  only  died 
slowly,  as  careful  study  of  his  career  and  the  accumulation 
of  much  evidence  have  enforced  quite  the  contrary  convic- 
tion. Yet  a  shrewd  observer  might  have  forecast  the  truth 
at  the  outset,  from  the  formation  of  his  Cabinet ;  for  in  no 
other  matter  are  political  bargaining,  wire-pulling,  and 
pressure  more  vigorously  exercised  than  in  Cabinet-mak- 
ing ;  yet  of  the  seven  men  who  constituted  his  ministry,  his 


hand  was  forced  only  in  the  selection  of  Cameron,  and  even 
there  the  forcing  was  perhaps  not  oppressive.  Certainly 
the  other  six  represented  his  personal  choice,  and  no  other 
among  them  represented  it  more  than  did  Mr.  Welles, 
whose  career  up  to  this  point  had  given  him  no  controlling 
prestige  such  as  that  which  would  have  made  the  omission 
of  Seward  or  Chase  a  matter  of  criticism.  So  far  as  is 
known,  no  pressure,  either  political  or  personal,  was 
brought  to  bear;  and  it  was  Mr.  Welles's  record,  as  it  has 
been  narrated  above,  which  led  Mr.  Lincoln  to  invite  him 
into  the  Cabinet.  The  Diary  has  the  story  of  the  selection 
in  conclusive  shape.  Wanting  a  man  from  New  England, 
Lincoln  took  an  ex-Democrat,  trained  in  public  business, 
who  had  manifested  his  courage  and  the  earnestness  of  his 
conviction  by  casting  loose  from  his  old  associates  on  the 
question  of  slavery;  and  who  also,  it  maybe  noted,  had 
shown  a  natural  aptitude  for  politics,  a  quality  which 
Mr.  Lincoln,  possessing  it  himself  in  a  high  degree,  did 
not  undervalue  hi  others. 

Precisely  why  the  Navy  Department  was  allotted  to 
Mr.  Welles  is  not  clear.  Perhaps  the  citizen  of  an  inland 
State,  who  probably  enough  had  never  seen  an  ocean-going 
ship,  was  influenced  by  the  flavor  of  maritime  commerce 
and  prowess  which  still  in  1860  hung  faintly  about  the 
wharves  of  New  England,  and  Mr.  Lincoln  may  have 
thought  that  any  New  Englander  must  be  amphibious ; 
or  he  may  have  been  affected  by  memory  of  the  office 
held  by  Mr.  Welles  under  Mr.  Polk,  slight  as  had  been  the 
nautical  flavor  of  those  commercial  functions.  When,  how- 
ever, Mr.  Welles  suggests  that  Secretary  Chase,  though 
having  a  "good  deal  of  ability,"  yet  "has  never  made  fin- 
ance his  study,"  and  again  when  he  shoots  at  his  favorite 
target,  Senator  Hale,  Chairman  of  the  Naval  Committee, 
the  slurring  words  "embarrassed  by  no  military  or  naval 
teaching,"  the  reader  may  smile  at  the  obvious  "tu  quo- 
que"  retort,  which  certainly  lay  ready  at  the  hand  of 
each  of  these  gentlemen.  Neither  of  them  used  it,  for 


neither  of  them  had  the  privilege  of  looking  over  Mr. 
Welles's  shoulder  as  he  poured  his  feelings  over  the  confi- 
dential pages  of  his  Diary.  But  when,  later  on  in  his  ad- 
ministration, other  persons,  sundry  "disappointed  men," 
suggested  that  some  one  with  more  real  salt-sea  experience 
than  Mr.  Welles  had  would  fill  the  place  better,  Mr.  Welles 
writes  that  there  "is  a  set  of  factious  fools  who  think  it 
wise  to  be  censorious,  and  it  is  almost  as  amusing  as  it  is 
vexatious  to  hear  and  read  the  remarks  of  these  Solomons," 
these  "officious  blockheads,"  who  have  the  simplicity  to 
allege  that  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy  should  have  had  per- 
sonal experience  on  shipboard.  One  of  these  critics,  he 
records,  has  been  a  shipowner,  another  has  been  a  ship- 
master; "successful  business  men,  but  egotistical  and 
vainly  weak.  Neither  is  competent  to  administer  the  Navy 
Department."  Comforting  reflections,  and  very  possibly 
altogether  true,  yet  it  may  be  permitted  to  remark,  obiter, 
that  the  layman  does  not,  by  familiarity  with  the  spectacle, 
cease  to  feel  bewilderment  at  the  utter  indifference  nearly 
always  shown  as  to  preparatory  training  or  specialist 
knowledge  in  the  allotment  of  cabinet  places.  It  is  sur- 
prising to  see  that  a  system  which  might  a  priori  be  re- 
garded as  of  dubious  promise  has  so  often  worked  fairly 
well.  At  the  same  time,  one  cannot  but  wish  that  on  some 
occasion,  when  there  is  one  of  those  temporary  lulls  which 
occur  from  tune  to  time  in  party  struggles,  when  partisan 
considerations  might  without  grave  peril  give  good  sense  a 
passing  chance,  an  incoming  President  would  have  the  orig- 
inality and  courage  to  compose  a  Cabinet  of  men  able  and 
thoroughly  versed  in  the  Departments  which  they  are 
called  to  administer.  It  is  possible  that  the  results  might 
be  very  satisfactory;  at  least,  the  experiment  would  be 
interesting  and  instructive.  Of  course  it  was  not  tried  by 
Mr.  Lincoln  anymore  than  it  has  been  by  other  Presidents, 
his  predecessors  and  successors.  He  made  a  journalist 
Secretary  of  the  Navy,  and  let  us  admit  that  the  journalist 
proved  to  be  a  very  good  Secretary  and  rejoice  that  he 


approved  himself  also  a  first-rate  Diarist.  In  fact,  if  he  had 
been  a  much  worse  Secretary,  we  should  readily  have  par- 
doned his  shortcomings  on  the  ground  of  his  eminent  suc- 
cess in  a  matter  which  now  and  for  us  is  of  much  more 

Certain  it  is  that  in  this  Diary  we  have  the  best  "Cabi- 
net Interior"  which  hangs  upon  the  walls  of  the  American 
room  in  the  world's  Gallery  of  History.  It  at  once  recalls 
and  provokes  comparison  with  that  other  famous  and 
more  bulky  diary  in  which  John  Quincy  Adams  confided 
to  posterity  his  appreciation  of  his  own  good  qualities  and 
the  failings  of  his  contemporaries.  Between  the  two  there 
are  interesting  points,  both  of  resemblance  and  of  contrast. 
Both  diarists  were  fine  examples  of  the  moral  and  intel- 
lectual civilization  of  the  New  England  of  their  times. 
Though  not  quite  contemporaries,  they  were  types  of  a  ra- 
cial development  which  became  complete  during  the  period 
of  their  joint  lifetimes.  They  were  intelligent  descendants 
of  the  old  Pilgrim  stock,  untiring  seekers  of  knowledge,  clear 
thinkers  amid  their  surroundings,  with  little  wit  or  humor 
and  no  imagination.  They  had  the  solid  moralities,  but 
were  somewhat  deficient  in  the  gentler  ones.  They  estab- 
lished high  standards  as  much  for  themselves  as  for  others; 
and  to  ordinary  mortals,  who  seemed  to  fall  below  these 
standards  they  doled  out  Christian  charity  with  much 
economy;  yet  the  reflection  that  the  delinquents,  thus 
scored  by  our  diarists,  were  largely  professional  politicians 
may  lead  us  to  a  like  economy  of  sympathy  for  them.  Both 
men  manifest  a  consciousness  of  perfect  rectitude  of  inten- 
tion, which  undoubtedly  they  both  had;  for  more  upright 
men  never  lived;  neither  could  have  been  induced  by  any 
possible  temptation  to  do  a  selfish  or  mean  or  in  any  way 
unworthy  act.  It  should  be  said,  however,  that  Mr.  Welles 
is  not  beset  by  that  self-admiration  which  from  matins  to 
vespers  ceaselessly  worried  Mr.  Adams,  so  that  he  seems 
forever  sitting  to  himself  for  his  own  portrait,  whereas  Mr. 
Welles's  portrayal  of  himself ,  such  as  it  is,  was  made  with- 


out  intention;  for  which  reason  his  pages  are  not  rendered 
wearisome  by  vanity,  or  by  disingenuous  depreciation  of 
his  own  merit.  Both  men  are  censorious,  but  Mr.  Welles 
is  almost  never  acrid;  his  judgments  are  severe,  but  not 
unfair,  not  malicious,  not  often  ill-tempered  and  perhaps 
never  really  vindictive.  They  would  seem  less  scathing  at 
times,  if  they  were  tempered  with  humor;  but,  in  the  ab- 
sence of  this,  we  have  the  next  most  enlivening  quality  on 
the  occasions  when  he  indulges  in  honest  and  hearty  sar- 
casm. This  he  could  do  very  well,  as,  for  example,  when  he 
speaks  of  one  Alden  as  "  patriotic  when  there  was  no  dan- 
ger," actually,  though  erroneously,  believing  himself  to  be 
courageous,  and  "  really  anxious  to  do  something  without 
encountering  enemies."  When  he  cuts,  he  does  it  trench- 
antly, and  when  he  abuses,  he  strikes  hard  and  straight. 
He  is  a  fair  fighter,  and  does  not  grumble  too  much  at  the 
like  treatment  when  dealt  to  himself,  although  it  must 
seem  to  him  undeserved  and  at  tunes  proceeding  from  un- 
worthy motives.  If  he  is  not  witty,  he  has  more  really  valu- 
able merits:  he  is  very  fair  and  just;  he  is  frank  and  manly; 
he  is  intelligent,  alert,  and  well-informed,  with  the  result 
that  no  more  trustworthy  material  than  his  pages  can  come 
to  the  table  of  the  historian  or  the  hands  of  the  reader. 

It  is  of  some  interest  to  establish  what  is  the  correct 
value  of  diaries  in  historical  literature.  When  a  politician 
sees  to  his  dismay  that  a  fickle  and  ill-advised  public  is 
giving  itself  over  to  be  led  astray  by  his  perfidious  oppon- 
ent, he  is  prone  to  seek  somewhat  juiceless  consolation  in 
references  to  the  " verdict  of  history"  or  the  "verdict  of 
posterity."  Both  verdicts  are  much  the  same,  for  both  dig- 
nified phrases  signify  only  that  vague  general  impression 
which  has  been  sent  filtering  through  the  public  mind  by 
those  historians  who  can  write  sufficiently  pleasingly  to 
secure  readers.  These  writers  are  really  counsel,  or  advo- 
cates, unpaid  for  the  most  part,  and  therefore  reasonably 
honest;  and  who  generally  mean  to  examine  the  evidence 
with  an  open  mind,  and  to  take  their  volunteer  brief  for  the 


man  or  cause  whom  or  which,  upon  that  evidence,  they 
believe  to  be  right.  Not  long  ago,  the  task  of  editing  the 
private  writings  of  any  deceased  public  man  was  taken  to 
imply  the  duty  of  excision  and  amendment  so  as  to  bring 
the  printed  pages  into  accord  with  supposed  proprieties. 
It  was  not  unlike  grooming  a  horse  for  exhibition.  Now, 
however,  it  is  understood  that  such  editorial  action  is  in 
point  of  morality  much  the  same  thing  as  tampering  with  a 
witness  or  perverting  his  testimony.  Suppress  diaries  or 
letters  if  you  cannot  print  them  as  they  were  written;  but 
know  that  you  are  dishonest  if,  without  avowal,  you  pub- 
lish under  a  man's  name  mutilated  excerpts  of  what  he 
really  wrote.  No  other  evidence  can  be  more  sacred  than  a 
diary,  which  the  world  accepts  as  confidential  truth.  Be- 
fore a  judge  or  jurors  the  viva  voce  testimony  of  a  witness  in 
presence  outweighs  in  real  influence  a  dozen  depositions 
of  absent  deponents,  and  for  the  historian  a  diary  or  a 
letter  takes  the  place  of  this  best  and  most  trustworthy 
of  all  possible  evidence,  and  is  to  be  respected  accord- 
ingly. In  this  point  of  view,  this  Diary  of  Mr.  Welles  is 
among  the  most  valuable  documents  within  reach  of  our 
historical  writers.  As  between  the  two,  a  diary  should  be 
accorded  greater  value  than  letters,  for  it  is  apt  to  be 
more  ingenuous,  more  honest.  Thus  it  is  not  possible  to 
imagine  that  any  historian  can  possibly  have  access  to 
better  evidence  than  this  Diary  of  Mr.  Welles.  Of  course, 
either  letters  or  diaries,  if  written  with  an  eye  to  post- 
humous publication,  may  be  intentionally  miscolored;  but 
it  is  much  harder  to  be  consistently  disingenuous  in  a  diary 
than  in  correspondence;  the  diary  written  hi  the  evening  is 
united  to  the  day  as  a  limb  to  the  body;  the  same  life-blood 
gives  the  vital  heat  and  spirit  to  both;  the  palpitation  of  the 
day's  actings  and  talkings  still  throbs  in  the  evening's  ac- 
count of  them.  It  is  almost  a  part  of  the  res  gestos.  The  diary 
is  written  to  one's  self ;  the  letter  is  written  to  a  person  whose 
own  individuality  of  character,  opinions,  and  temper  often 
unconsciously  react  upon  the  writer;  the  letter  may  have 


an  exterior  object,  which  the  diary  never  can  have,  since  it 
can  have  no  other  value  for  its  writer  than  that  of  a  correct 
record.  The  "  personal  equation,  "as  it  is  called,  signifying 
the  moral,  mental,  and  temperamental  qualities  and  idiosyn- 
cracies  of  the  diarist,  must  of  course  be  studied  and  allowed 
for,  just  as  the  navigator  must  study  the  dip  and  variation 
of  the  compass;  otherwise  historian  and  navigator  may 
both  go  wrong.  But  the  observant  reader  cannot  long  rest 
in  the  intimacy  of  the  diarist  without  getting  at  least  what 
may  be  called  a  good  average  knowledge  of  his  character.  If 
these  views  as  to  diaries  are  correct,  it  is  certainly  difficult 
to  exaggerate  the  value  and  interest  which  attach  to  this 
Diary  of  Mr.  Welles;  that  he  wrote  it  is  most  fortunate;  its 
suppression  would  properly  have  been  regarded  as  a  national 
disaster,  as  its  faithful  presentation  is  of  inestimable  ad- 

The  true  function  of  the  diary  is  to  talk  to  us  about 
individuals,  not  to  instruct  us  as  to  events,  —  and  how 
much  more  interesting  this  is!  In  fact,  the  historian  may 
well  be  better  informed  as  to  events  and  facts  than  the 
diarist  can  be,  for  the  historian  has  access  to  immense  ac- 
cumulations of  evidence  which  the  diarist  never  knew,  but 
which  through  the  long  years  have  come  slowly  leaking  into 
light  from  desks  and  attics  and  hiding-places  innumerable. 
On  the  other  hand,  history  is  comparatively  weak  in  the 
matter  of  individual  character,  which  posterity  can  rarely 
know  as  contemporaries  do.  They  see  and  hear  the  living 
man;  they  know  not  only  his  conspicuous  acts  but  also  all 
the  little  ones;  they  hear  of  him  from  the  men  who  deal 
with  him,  and  they  know  more  or  less  of  those  men  also; 
they  get  and  sift  the  gossip,  good  and  bad.  If  a  man's  con- 
temporaries fail  to  find  out  what  he  is,  posterity  rarely  will 
do  better;  though  this  latter  case  may  befall  through 
strange  belated  discoveries,  and,  in  fact,  has  befallen  pre- 
cisely within  the  region  of  this  Welles  Diary;  for  President 
Lincoln  is  unquestionably  better  estimated  to-day  than  he 
was  during  his  lifetime,  and  is  in  some  respects  more  ac- 


curately  known  to  us  than  he  was  to  his  own  Ministers. 
The  patience  with  which  he  could  wait  while  causes  slowly 
produced  results,  his  remarkable  combination  of  respect 
for  the  opinion  of  others  with  absolute  reliance  upon  his 
own  opinion,  his  forbearance,  tact,  shrewdness,  foresight, 
and  fairness,  are  all  qualities  which  could  not  be  fairly  seen 
at  short  range  and  as  they  were  at  work,  but  which,  by 
reason  of  careful  study  and  the  ever-growing  accumulation 
of  facts,  we  have  come  to  know  as  our  fathers  could  not 
know  them.  Generally,  however,  more  is  lost  than  gained 
by  distance  in  the  estimation  of  character,  and  the  most 
vivid  and  attractive  biographies  are  probably  far  from 
photographic.  We  may  read  lives  of  Washington  till  our 
eyes  ache,  but  are  they  all  worth  a  few  hours  of  chat  about 
him  with  Lafayette,  or  Hamilton,  or  even  with  Jefferson? 
These  are  the  witnesses  we  want  to  hear,  and  the  nearest 
approach  to  such  witnesses,  where  all  are  silent  in  death, 
we  find  in  the  diarist. 

As,  therefore,  was  naturally  to  be  expected,  this  Diary 
contributes  little  new  knowledge  concerning  events,  and 
settles  few  of  those  many  discussions  to  which  the  Civil 
War  gave  rise.  On  the  other  hand,  it  presents  an  invaluable 
row  of  portraits ;  so  that  there  are  indeed  no  other  records 
which  can  at  all  be  brought  into  even  remote  comparison 
with  it  for  that  interesting  period.  Mr.  Welles  had  ex- 
traordinary insight  into  men,  and  a  very  happy  skill  in 
depicting  them;  at  least  we  are  bound  to  think  so,  for  there 
is  a  remarkable  agreement  between  what  he  wrote  in  those 
days  when  our  past  was  his  present,  and  what  our  histo- 
rians and  biographers  are  now  setting  forth  as  the  dispas- 
sionate valuations  of  posterity.  Such  harmony  is  agreeably 
reassuring  as  to  the  accuracy  of  the  judgments  which  we  are 
to-day  accepting.  So  far  as  Mr.  Welles  is  concerned,  his  even- 
mindedness  is  a  very  unique  quality;  as  a  rule,  the  climate 
of  the  contemporary  writings  during  our  Civil  War  had  no 
temperate  zone;  whether  beneath  the  sunshine  of  hero- 
worship  or  amid  cyclones  of  denunciation,  there  was  always 


equatorial  fervor.  It  is  only  Mr.  Welles  who,  so  far  as  we 
know,  was  at  once  shrewd  and  judicial.  Perhaps  he  was 
a  little  Rhadamanthine.  If,  however,  there  seems  a  ten- 
dency to  severity,  it  is  not  due  to  unkindness  of  dispo- 
sition, but  rather  to  the  intensity  of  the  times  and  the  tre- 
mendous stress  of  feeling.  Those  were  not  ordinary  days 
when  selfish  ambition  and  incompetence  could  be  passed 
over  as  ordinary  sins;  the  men  who  were  guilty  of  them 
were  to  be  branded,  and  Mr.  Welles  branded  them;  it  was 
a  tune  for  Hebraic  wrath  rather  than  for  Christian  charity; 
moreover,  Mr.  Welles  was  as  exacting  towards  himself  as 
towards  others,  and  gave  a  devotion  as  unselfish  as  that 
which  he  demanded.  Be  this  as  it  may,  whether  he  was 
severe  or  not,  how  strong  and  vivid  is  his  portraiture  even 
in  his  minor  characters!  Thus  a  page  or  two  depicts  Banks 
with  perfect  accuracy;  a  few  scattered  paragraphs  present 
Du  Pont  to  the  life;  and  so  on  through  many  instances. 
Herein  is  proof  of  the  real  artist;  this  making  every  minor 
character  as  lifelike  an  individuality  as  are  the  leaders  is 
the  Shakespearian  quality.  Naturally,  however,  it  is  the 
sketches  of  the  leaders  which  have  the  most  interest,  and 
which  best  illustrate  the  shrewd  and  just  perception  of 
Mr.  Welles.  Take,  for  example,  McClellan.  In  the  proces- 
sion of  admirers  which  heralded  the  advent  of  this  military 
savior  none  blew  a  more  confident  trumpet  than  did  Secre- 
tary Chase.  Later  when  the  savior  had  lamentably  failed 
to  save,  Mr.  Chase  not  less  vehemently  denounced  him, 
calling  him  "an  imbecile,  a  coward,  and  a  traitor,"  and 
summoning  Mr.  Welles  to  cry  Amen.  But  that  gentleman 
recalled  that  he  had  set  an  interrogation  mark  against  the 
name  of  the  hero  at  the  time  of  his  first  introduction,  and 
said  that,  having  afterward  avoided  the  error  of  exaltation, 
he  would  not  now  fall  into  the  injustice  of  damnation. 
During  the  time  when  Chase  was  lauding  McClellan,  nine- 
teen out  of  every  twenty  loyal  Northerners  were  of  the  like 
mind;  later  at  least  seventeen  out  of  every  twenty  sympa- 
thized in  some  measure  with  the  condemnation.  All  the 


while  Mr.  Welles  is  from  time  to  time  setting  down  in  his 
Diary  such  an  average  and  temperate  valuation  as  may  be 
found  in  almost  any  modern  history. 

But  the  name  of  McClellan  has  become  wearisome,  and 
most  readers  will  get  more  entertainment  in  Mr.  Welles's 
picture  of  another  of  the  failures,  a  picture  which  is  aston- 
ishingly lifelike,  considering  how  little  life  there  was  in  the 
subject.  One  may  read  much  about  the  Civil  War  without 
often  happening  upon  the  name  of  Halleck,  yet  for  a  very 
long  while  that  harmless  professor  of  the  arts  of  slaughter 
and  destruction  was  showing  how  peacefully  he  could  con- 
duct these  processes,  as  he  sat,  obscurely  sluggish  and 
silent,  at  his  desk  in  Washington,  officially  superintending 
the  entire  strategy  of  all  the  Northern  forces,  chewing  his 
cigar,  and  rubbing  his  elbows.  How  that  habitual  gesture 
of  his  exasperated  Mr.  Welles !  When  the  rubbing  began, 
the  friction  seemed  to  spread  from  the  Halleck  coat-sleeve 
to  the  whole  Welles  system.  All  that  Mr.  Welles  says 
about  Halleck  is  at  once  amusing,  severe,  and  just;  and  to 
the  irritating  influence  which  the  General  exercised  upon 
the  Secretary  we  owe  some  lively  pictures,  among  pages 
whereon  picturesque  liveliness  yields  somewhat  too  much 
room  to  careful  accuracy.  "Called  this  morning,"  says  the 
Diary  in  one  instance,  "on  General  Halleck,  who  had  for- 
gotten, or  was  not  aware,  there  was  a  naval  force  in  the 
James  River,  cooperating  with  the  army!"  Mr.  Welles 
assured  the  great  chieftain  that  such  was  indeed  the  fact; 
then  the  General,  perplexed  as  to  whether  the  vessels 
should  be  retained  or  withdrawn,  went  to  work  upon  his 
elbows,  and  rubbed  out  the  conclusion  that  they  might  as 
well  be  withdrawn.  Then  Mr.  Welles  suggested  that  they 
might  as  well  stay,  and  the  General  immediately  thought 
so  too.  It  was  a  fair  specimen  of  Halleck's  inefficiency, 
and  in  those  critical  days  inefficiency  might  be  as  harmful 
as  treason.  Mr.  Welles  chafed  impatiently,  while  others 
tardily  learned  what  he  so  well  knew;  and  meantime  he 
confided  to  his  Diary  that  Halleck  "is  heavy-headed," 


"may  have  some  talent  as  a  writer  or  critic,"  but  "in  all 
military  matters  seems  destitute  of  resources,  skill,  or 
capacity,"  is  "more  tardy  and  irresolute  than  McClellan," 
with  much  more  to  the  like  disrespectful  purport.  It  is 
all  just  what  any  writer  would  say  to-day;  Mr.  Welles  was 
only  writing  the  "verdict  of  history"  in  advance. 

Another  victim  furnished  for  the  especial  gratification  of 
those  imperfect  Christians  who  derive  a  pleasurable  sensa- 
tion at  the  spectacle  of  a  sound  drubbing  administered  with 
whole-hearted  thoroughness,  is  the  Honorable  John  P. 
Hale,  of  the  Senate,  Chairman  of  the  Naval  Committee. 
For  a  while,  Mr.  Hale  was  mistaken  for  a  man  of  some  con- 
sequence on  the  alleged  ground  of  character  and  ability, 
and  before  this  view  had  been  fully  corrected  he  was  able 
to  make  trouble  for  the  Secretary,  with  the  amusing  result 
of  calling  forth  many  vivacious  comments.  Thus,  Mr. 
Welles  tells  us  that  Hale,  having  at  the  outset  defied, 
scorned,  and  derided  secession,  "was  one  of  the  first  to  flee 
from  Washington  when  the  storm  was  about  to  burst"; 
but  later,  the  Capital  being  "garrisoned  and  shielded  by  a 
large  army,  this  burning  and  eloquent  patriot  returned, 
overflowing  with  courage,"  and  "in  the  exuberance  of  his 
zeal"  set  on  foot  an  inquiry  as  to  the  loss  of  the  Norfolk 
Navy  Yard.  In  a  "patronizing  way"  he  offered  to  hear 
any  explanation  which  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy  might 
offer  concerning  this  painful  incident.  If  he  could  have 
read  what  the  world  can  now  read,  he  would  have  neglected 
the  defense  of  Norfolk  for  the  defense  of  Hale!  Later  we 
learn  and  sympathetically  believe  that  he  was  "lazy, 
noisy,"  a  "harlequin"  and  "demagogue,"  a  "Senatorial 
buffoon,"  without  "application  or  fidelity,"  who  is  "nei- 
ther honest  nor  sincere";  and  in  later  pages  the  charges 
become  even  more  serious.  In  the  improbable  event  that 
there  are  any  persons  who  will  care  to  object  to  the  erasure 
of  Mr.  Hale's  name  from  the  roll  of  the  country's  great 
men,  certainly  ample  provocation  is  now  given  to  them  for 
making  themselves  heard. 


Of  course,  not  many  pages  can  be  turned  without  en- 
countering the  names  of  Seward,  Chase,  and  Stanton.  Of 
these,  Stanton,  the  friendless  one,  evidently  affected  Mr. 
Welles  as  he  affected  pretty  much  everyone  else  who  came 
much  into  contact  with  him.  No  one  liked  him  living; 
scarcely  anyone  has  wished  to  say  much  for  him  dead.  An 
advocate  biographer  has  indeed  presented  a  sort  of  brief 
for  him,  and  Mr.  Rhodes,  kindliest  of  historians,  has  men- 
tioned his  virtues;  for,  in  fact,  he  had  virtues,  —  devotion 
to  the  cause,  a  very  greed  for  hard  work,  financial  integ- 
rity, and  merciless  energy  against  the  rascal  contractors. 
But  it  cannot  be  forgotten  that  he  had  the  odious  faults  of 
a  bully;  he  was  violent  and  insolent,  but  only  when  violence 
and  insolence  were  safe;  he  was  supposed  to  be  personally 
timid;  he  could  be  mean  and  unjust;  above  all  he  repeat- 
edly outraged  the  magnanimous  forbearance  of  Mr.  Lin- 
coln in  a  way  which  no  American  can  forgive.  Substan- 
tially every  writer's  pen  is  against  him;  or,  at  least,  no 
writer's  pen  is  for  him.  Mr.  Welles  rends  him  and  tears 
him  without  mercy  and  returns  to  mangle  and  to  toss 
again,  nor  even  so  provokes  the  reader  to  interfere  to 
save  the  prey;  we  can  all  read  the  sentences  with  equa- 
nimity; many  of  us  will  read  them  with  cheerful  sym- 
pathy. The  two  men,  after  a  few  tentative  feints  and 
clashes,  had  inevitably  to  try  out  their  comparative 
strength  in  a  conclusive  bout.  It  took  place,  and  there- 
after Mr.  Stanton  rarely  ventured  into  Mr.  Welles's  path. 
He  had  learned  that  the  Navy  Department  was  not  a 
province  or  subdivision  of  the  War  Department  and  that 
cooperation  of  vessels  with  land  forces  did  not  imply  subor- 
dination of  the  Navy  to  the  Army.  Delightfully  spirited 
and  vivid  perhaps  beyond  all  others  in  the  Diary  are  the 
pages  which  narrate  the  conferences  of  President  and  Min- 
isters when  first  the  startling  foray  of  the  Merrimac  car- 
ried consternation,  and  then  very  soon  the  achievement  of 
the  beslurred  Monitor,  the  "cheese-box"  of  the  sarcastic 
critics,  restored  triumphant  cheerfulness  at  the  North. 


There  are  few  such  sketches  in  history  as  that  which  Mr. 
Welles  furnishes  upon  this  occasion,  availing  splendidly 
of  a  splendid  opportunity.  Alas,  poor  Yorick!  If  Mr. 
Stanton  could  only  have  known  that  Mr.  Welles  was 
keeping  a  diary,  and  therein  depicting  this  scene  in  vivid, 
undying  colors,  would  not  he  at  once  have  set  about  keep- 
ing one  also?  And  how  posterity  might  then  have  been 
entertained!  At  present  it  is  too  much  like  sitting  at  the 
prize-ring  and  seeing  only  one  pugilist. 

It  is  an  odd  fact  that  Mr.  C.  F.  Adams  was  beset  by  an 
incapacity  for  appreciating  Mr.  Lincoln,  which  at  once 
calls  to  mind  the  like  incapacity  of  his  grandfather  for 
appreciating  Washington.  John  Adams  lived  and  died 
under  the  firm  conviction  that  Washington  was  a  vexa- 
tiously  over-rated  man;  Mr.  C.  F.  Adams  carried  to  his 
grave  a  like  certainty  concerning  Lincoln.  He  even  had  the 
imprudence  to  make  public  declaration  of  his  unfortun- 
ate views,  by  delivering  in  1873  a  memorial  address  on 
Mr.  Seward,  wherein  he  said  that  from  the  birth  of  our 
government  no  other  "  experiment  so  rash  had  ever  been 
made  as  that  of  elevating  to  the  head  of  affairs  a  man 
with  so  little  previous  preparation  for  his  task"  as  Mr. 
Lincoln  had.  Now  it  may  be  admitted  that  this  allegation, 
construed  with  such  literal  narrowness  as  Jeffersonians 
would  have  used  for  construing  the  Constitution,  was  not 
grossly  extravagant.  The  fact  that  the  " experiment" 
turned  out  so  wonderfully  well  that  many  devout  persons 
have  even  seen  hi  it  the  direct  hand  of  God,  of  course  does 
not  prove  that  in  the  outset  it  was  not  "rash."  It  was  only 
needlessly  unkind  on  Mr.  Adams's  part  to  say  that  it  was 
more  "rash"  than  had  been  the  selection  of  certain  other 
persons  who  had  been  elevated  to  the  same  office,  not  only 
in  spite  of  the  fact  that  they  had  had  little  "previous  prepa- 
ration," but  in  spite  of  the  even  more  disqualifying  fact 
that  they  had  given  no  reason  for  a  belief  in  their  fitness, 
and  some  reason  to  fear  their  unfitness.  Apart  from  his 
then  unproved  qualities  of  combined  character  and  intel- 


lect,  Mr.  Lincoln's  " preparation"  had  certainly  been  con- 
fined to  a  thorough  study  of  the  problem  presented  by 
slavery.  It  so  happened,  however,  that  slavery  was  at  this 
critical  moment  so  all-important  as  to  be  practically  the 
only  problem,  and  it  also  so  happened  that  Mr.  Lincoln 
understood  it  far  better  than  any  other  man  then  living, 
not  excepting  Jefferson  Davis,  or  Charles  Sumner,  or  Mr. 
Adams  himself.  But  though  the  above  cited  assertion, 
literally  taken,  was  not  so  very  depreciatory  to  Mr.  Lin- 
coln, the  same  could  not  be  said  of  the  general  tone  of  the 
address,  which  stripped  President  Lincoln  of  credit  and 
praise  and  conferred  generously  upon  Mr.  Seward  all  that 
was  thus  filched  from  his  chief.  If  Mr.  Adams's  view  of  the 
situation  was  correct,  the  nation  had  been  burning  incense 
before  the  wrong  altar. 

Mr.  Welles  was  stirred  with  indignation,  so  stirred  that 
he  came  to  the  rescue  of  his  great  leader's  reputation  by 
writing  and  publishing  a  loyal  little  volume,  which  he 
called  "  Lincoln  and  Seward."  What  he  said  in  this  book 
has,  in  substance,  been  absorbed  into  our  history,  which  has 
accepted  Mr.  Welles's  views  and  has  rejected,  forgotten, 
and  forever  buried  the  contrary  opinions  of  Mr.  Adams. 
For  this  reason,  because  it  has  done  its  work,  the  book  is 
not  now  very  familiar  to  ordinary  readers ;  but  one  finds  a 
certain  entertainment  in  comparing  it  with  the  Diary,  and 
the  comparison  plainly  indicates  the  superior  value  of  an 
intimate  daily  outpouring  of  feelings,  fresh  and  hot,  as 
against  the  later  expression  of  those  feelings  cooled  and 
prepared  for  publication.  In  the  book  Mr.  Welles  civilly 
writes  that  he  "enjoyed  uninterruptedly  pleasant  social 
and  official  intercourse"  with  Mr.  Seward.  If  the  signifi- 
cation of  these  words  be  not  trimmed  to  close  literalness, 
they  are  likely  to  convey  an  impression  of  friendly  har- 
mony between  the  two  men  which  is  quite  astonishing  to 
the  reader  of  the  Diary.  Further,  the  book  alleges  a  rela- 
tionship of  "confidence  and  mutual  frankness  on  public 
affairs  .  .  .  among  all  the  members "  of  the  Cabinet,  sub- 


ject  only  to  such  occasional  interruptions  of  perfect  cordial- 
ity as  might  be  provoked  by  Mr.  Seward's  pretensions  to 
superiority.  Amid  the  many  interpretations  which  may 
possibly  be  put  upon  the  word  " confidence"  in  this  pass- 
age there  can  perhaps  be  suggested  some  one  which  may 
justify  its  use.  Neither  are  there  wanting  sporadic  in- 
stances of  the  presence  of  "  frankness,"  that  most  ticklish 
of  good  qualities,  the  porcupine  in  the  menagerie  of  virtues. 
For  example,  when  Seward  humbly  admitted  to  Mr. 
Welles  that  he  had  learned  that  for  the  future  he  had 
"better  attend  to  his  own  business,"  Mr.  Welles  hastened 
to  meet  him  with  a  "  cordial  assent."  No  one  will  deny 
that  on  this  occasion  Mr.  Welles  evinced  frankness.  There 
are  other  cases  also  of  plain  speaking;  yet  the  fact  remains 
that  he  who  reads  the  Diary  will  not  be  able  to  accept  some 
of  the  statements  which  in  later  years  found  utterance 
in  the  book  save  as  conventionalities  or  as  spoken  "in  a 
Pickwickian  sense,"  or  perhaps  in  that  spirit  of  serene 
magnanimity  which  is  supposed  to  prevail  hi  making 
preparation  for  a  Christian  death-bed.  As  matter  of 
plain  fact,  the  Diary  is  thickly  sprinkled  with  criticisms 
of  Mr.  Seward  because  of  his  pretentious  bearing,  his 
assumption  of  the  r61e  of  a  premier  in  the  Cabinet,  his  airs 
of  mystery  and  his  affectation  of  special  information  and  of 
private  knowledge  in  affairs,  above  all  else  by  reason  of  his 
passion  for  meddling  and  his  irritating  forays  into  the  inde- 
pendent Departments  of  ,his  associates.  The  most  note- 
worthy instance  of  this  was  the  disastrous  occult  interfer- 
ence of  Mr.  Seward  in  the  matter  of  relieving  Fort  Sumter. 
The  error  had  to  be  admitted  by  him  and  ostensibly  forgiven 
by  Mr.  Welles,  but  it  was  never  forgotten  and  never  ceased 
to  rankle.  Soon  afterward  came  the  long  and  serious  dispute 
as  to  the  disposition  to  be  made  of  foreign  mails  captured  on 
blockade-runners.  Here  again  Seward  undertook  to  settle 
the  whole  business  autocratically  in  his  own  office.  Mr. 
Welles  resented  and  resisted,  and  was  clearly  in  the  right; 
but  Mr.  Seward  had  committed  himself  to  the  English  gov- 


ernment  and  the  embarrassment  was  grave.  All  the  strict- 
ures made  by  Mr.  Welles  concerning  Seward  have  been 
made  by  others,  and  none  of  them  lacks  foundation;  yet  it 
must  be  said  that  of  all  the  pictures  in  these  volumes  that  of 
Seward  is  the  most  open  to  the  criticism  of  doing  scant  jus- 
tice, if  not  actual  injustice,  to  the  subject.  Probably  Mr. 
Seward  was  rated  more  highly  by  his  own  generation  than 
he  will  be  by  posterity;  but  probably  also  he  will  beheld  in 
better  esteem  than  would  be  possible  if  there  were  no  other 
evidence  concerning  him  than  what  could  be  drawn  from 
this  Diary.  He  was  at  once  an  able  man  and  a  frequent 
blunderer.  On  the  whole,  one  feels  that  when  speaking  of 
him  Mr.  Welles  is  certainly  less  well  balanced  than  usual. 
Possibly  this  is  due  to  the  fact  that  they  clashed  frequently, 
since  maritime  matters  and  foreign  relations  inevitably 
crossed  in  many  complications.  In  such  Mr.  Welles  was 
more  apt  to  have  sound  as  well  as  courageous  views  than 
was  his  associate  minister. 

While  thus,  day  by  day,  Mr.  Welles  is  consciously  draw- 
ing for  us  the  portraits  of  his  colleagues,  he  is  also  day  by 
day,  but  quite  unconsciously,  giving  us  the  lines,  the  lights, 
and  the  shadows  for  his  own  portrait.  While  we  are  learn- 
ing what  he  thinks  of  others  and  why,  we  are  likewise 
deciding  what  we  think  of  him  upon  evidence  of  a  kind  that 
is  next  best  to  personal  acquaintance.  In  the  main,  the 
conclusions  are  much  to  his  credit.  When  we  see  that  all 
his  brains,  his  heart,  his  strength  were  strenuously  engaged 
in  the  cause,  we  know  that  the  same  can  be  said  of  many 
others;  when  we  see  that  he  was  more  than  respectfully 
obedient,  that  he  was  always  nobly  loyal  and  wisely  sus- 
taining towards  his  chief,  we  admit  that  some  others  were 
the  same;  but  when  we  see  that  he  was  absolutely  devoid 
of  any  ulterior  ambition  or  personal  motives  or  any  form 
of  self-seeking,  that  he  was  almost  indifferent  concerning 
his  own  reputation  so  long  as  he  was  conscious  of  having 
done  his  duty  with  all  his  might  and  all  his  intelligence, 
then  at  length  we  say  that  in  some  respects  he  was  very 


near  to  being  singular.  He  had  strong  opinions  as  to  men 
as  well  as  measures,  and  expressed  them;  but  he  was  a  clear 
thinker,  and,  being  by  nature  fair-minded,  he  further  took 
pains  not  to  permit  either  passion  or  prejudice  to  divert 
the  movement  of  his  reasoning.  When  his  mind  was  made 
up,  however,  he  did  not  easily  change  his  opinion;  and  one 
would  not  be  surprised  if  it  should  appear  that  Seward 
and  Stanton  thought  him  obstinate,  or  opinionated,  or 
even  contentious.  Yet  he  made  fewer  errors  than  they  did. 
He  made  some,  of  course,  and  if  this  Diary  had  been  ex- 
purgated with  a  view  to  exhibiting  him  as  infallible,  a  few 
passages  which  appear  therein  would  have  been  suppressed. 
For  example,  he  was  one  of  those  who  deprecated  the 
difficult  task  of  blockading  the  Southern  ports,  on  the 
ground  that  it  was  a  needless  recognition  of  belligerency 
involving  injurious  consequences;  nor  does  it  seem  that 
he  ever  came  to  see  how  academic  and  impracticable  would 
have  been  a  closure  by  proclamation.  Again  he  had  a  dis-, 
trust  of  "the  West  Point  idea,"  as  it  was  called,  which 
would  have  been  unfortunate  if  his  Department  had  been 
concerned  with  operations  on  the  land  instead  of  on  the 
water.  He  shared  the  too  prevalent  faith  in  the  possibility 
of  making  generals  out  of  any  sort  of  civilian  material,  just 
as  it  was  assumed  that  military  coats  might  be  made  at 
any  mill.  It  took  a  sad  amount  of  experience  and  many 
poor  soldiers  had  to  shiver  before  it  was  well  recognized 
that  a  shoddy  mill  turned  out  poor  stuff  for  hard  service, 
and  that  extemporized  commanders,  made  out  of  politi- 
cians or  lawyers,  were  generally  out  of  place  at  the  top, 
however  well  they  might  do  halfway  up.  He  protested 
much  against  the  establishment  of  a  "military  frontier," 
with  the  general  grouping  of  all  residents  south  of  it  as 
Rebels.  He  said  that  this  was  the  fallacious  notion  of 
technical  military  theorists;  whereas  the  truth  was  that 
the  shifting  line  of  the  frontier  was  simply  the  expression 
in  military  phraseology  of  an  actual  condition;  not  a 
manoeuvre  was  ever  affected  by  the  language;  and  the 


attribution  of  rebellion  to  the  Southern  population  en 
bloc  was  simply  a  necessity  and  was  not  far  wrong  either. 
Disaffection  was  a  germ  disease  which  rapidly  spread 
among  residents  in  the  unwholesome  district.  Another 
matter  concerning  which  Mr.  Welles  expressed  disappro- 
bation was  the  issue  of  legal-tender  notes.  This  affected 
him  personally,  or  rather  the  administration  of  his  Depart- 
ment, in  a  very  embarrassing  manner;  for  the  sums  at  his 
disposal,  voted  in  dollars  but  obtained  sometimes  by  bills 
of  exchange,  were  subject  to  large  discount.  Thus  the 
shoe  pinched.  But  while  this  was  vexatious,  it  was  not  the 
fundamental  cause  of  his  criticism  of  the  policy  recom- 
mended by  the  Treasury  Department  and  adopted  by 
Congress,  and  which  he  conceived  to  be  unnecessary  and 
mischievous.  Whether  or  not  he  was  right  no  one  can  say; 
for  while  we  know  that  the  country  struggled  along  under 
the  incubus  of  those  financial  measures,  we  can  only  specu- 
late as  to  whether  or  not  it  could  have  fared  better  or  even 
at  all  without  them.  Suffice  it  to  say  that  some  students 
of  the  subject  have  very  stoutly  maintained  the  same 
opinion  which  Mr.  Welles  expressed. 

These  views  relating  to  matters  outside  Mr.  Welles's 
own  Department,  and  so  finding  no  expression  in  action, 
did  not  diminish  his  reputation.  Nearly  or  quite  every 
great  reputation  gained  at  that  period  survived  as  many 
or  more,  as  bad  or  worse,  misconceptions;  and  inevitably 
so,  for  amid  such  novel  problems  and  unprecedented 
events  the  lamp  of  experience  burned  very  dim  and  no 
man  could  walk  always  wisely  amid  strange  surroundings. 
The  only  criticism  of  Mr.  Welles  which  has  retained  some 
vitality  is  to  the  general  effect  that  he  showed  some  lack 
of  what  we  have  lately  been  taught  to  call  the  strenuous 
quality.  Certainly  he  came  less  before  the  public  than  did 
the  Secretary  of  State  who  aspired  to  be  the  power  behind 
the  President,  or  than  the  Secretary  of  the  Treasury  who 
desired  to  succeed  the  President,  or  than  the  Secretary  of 
War  whose  functions  as  well  as  his  methods  of  performing 


them  were  almost  preposterously  spectacular  and  despotic. 
Mr.  Welles  had  no  political  aspirations,  was  not  courting 
popularity  with  any  eye  to  the  future,  and  made  no  effort 
to  render  his  Department  conspicuous  or  to  have  his  admin- 
istration of  it  lauded.  Yet  a  comparison  of  the  achieve- 
ments of  the  Navy  Department  with  the  achievements  of 
other  departments  is  greatly  in  its  favor.  Neither  Mr. 
Stanton  in  arming,  clothing,  and  feeding  the  men  gathered 
by  the  President's  calls,  nor  Mr.  Chase  in  printing  green- 
backs and  selling  bonds  at  the  buyer's  price,  encountered 
a  more  novel  task  or  found  less  material  ready  at  hand  for 
it  than  Mr.  Welles  met  when  he  had  rapidly  to  create 
a  great  blockading  fleet,  an  efficient  fighting  fleet,  and  a 
fleet  adapted  for  the  peculiar  service  on  the  great  rivers. 
It  is  a  matter  of  regret  that  the  Diary  does  not  contain 
more  on  the  subject  of  the  Navy;  and  if  this  is  due  to  lack 
of  egotism,  we  would  rather  that  he  had  not  been  so  free 
from  that  rather  petty  blemish.  Judgment  of  his  admin- 
istrative efficiency  must  still  be  made  up  about  as  it  would 
have  been  before  the  publication  of  these  volumes.  For 
some  reason,  or  without  reason,  people  generally  have  paid 
insufficient  attention  to  the  naval  side  of  the  civil  conflict, 
and  are  still  slow  to  appreciate  the  fact  which  our  historical 
writers  begin  of  late  to  insist  upon,  that  it  was  because  the 
blockade  strangled  the  Confederacy  that  the  armies  were 
able  to  slay  it;  nor  is  there  even  now,  and  perhaps  there 
never  will  be,  any  adequate  appreciation  of  the  magnitude 
of  that  great  enterprise  or  of  the  infinite  difficulty  in  the 
details  of  its  prolonged  and  perilous  maintenance.  A 
steady  pressure  to  weaken  its  effectiveness  came  not  only 
from  selfish  or  knavish  traders  anxious  to  make  money  and 
backed  by  politicians,  but  also  too  often  from  the  Foreign 
Department.  Mr.  Welles  had  to  take  a  resolute  stand  not 
only  against  the  ignoble  money  power  with  its  political 
"pull,"  but  occasionally  even  against  Seward  himself.  It 
was  Seward's  inclination  and  to  some  extent  his  duty  to 
regard  conciliation  somewhat  more  highly  than  firmness, 


whereas  Mr.  Welles  had  to  set  achievement  far  above  con- 
cession. Mr.  Welles,  early  in  his  experience,  noted  irrit- 
ably that  Mr.  Seward  would  probably  get  the  better  in  a 
dispute  of  this  kind  because  he  would  alarm  the  President 
by  the  " bugaboo"  of  a  foreign  war.  It  soon  appeared, 
however,  that  Mr.  Lincoln  was  little  disturbed  by  buga- 
boos, and  as  force  is  the  naturally  powerful  element  in 
times  of  war,  Mr.  Welles  was  generally  able  to  prevail  over 
the  more  pacific  and  temporizing  Secretary. 

If  the  blockade  lacked  somewhat  in  the  spectacular 
quality  and  in  the  condensation  of  the  single  great  event, 
one  need  only  turn  to  New  Orleans  and  Vicksburg  and 
above  all  to  Mobile  Bay,  to  have  these  defects  abundantly 
supplied.  Military  strategy  encountered  no  such  novelty 
as  the  Merrimac,  nor  devised  any  such  greater  novelty  as 
the  Monitor,  revolutionizing  the  practice  of  the  world. 
Mr.  Welles,  of  course,  did  not  invent  the  Monitor,  but  he 
gave  it  a  trial  in  spite  of  strenuous  opposition  on  the  part 
of  "  practical  seamen."  He  did  not  command  at  Mobile 
Bay  or  elsewhere,  any  more  than  Mr.  Stanton  commanded 
at  Gettysburg.  It  was  not  the  business  of  these  gentle- 
men to  command;  but  it  was  their  business  to  choose 
commanders,  and  in  this  Mr.  Welles  showed  an  ability 
in  which  the  rival  Department  was  sadly  lacking;  for, 
in  the  language  of  the  turf,  he  was  apt  to  "pick  the  win- 
ner," the  most  useful  faculty  which  a  Secretary  of  War  or 
a  Secretary  of  the  Navy  can  have  in  tune  of  war.  He  had 
singular  sagacity  in  judging  men;  for  he  was  observant, 
and  could  see  the  moral,  mental,  and  temperamental  ma- 
terial which  lay  stored  away  in  one  man  or  another.  He 
had  a  like  shrewdness  in  estimating  situations,  and  in 
sifting  the  news  and  rumors  of  events;  so  that  his  forecasts 
were  singularly  accurate.  For  these  reasons  it  was  natural 
that,  while  the  War  Department  was  painfully  learning 
on  many  a  lost  and  bloody  battlefield  who  could  not  com- 
mand victory,  the  Navy  Department  sent  well  chosen 
captains  from  one  success  to  another.  For  this  it  would  be 


unfair  not  to  give  the  credit  to  Mr.  Welles;  and  his  Diary, 
without  self-praise,  indicates  that  he  deserved  it. 

Like  silver  streaks  through  the  somewhat  rumpled  and 
disordered  surface  of  this  Cabinet  story  run  the  reminis- 
cences of  Lincoln.  Written  of  events  presently  occurring, 
or  repeating  words  just  spoken,  the  Diary  tells  such  truth 
as  the  instantaneous  photograph  would  tell  before  any  re- 
touching had  been  done  by  the  artful  photographer.  There- 
fore no  allowance  has  to  be  made  for  the  influence  of  a  pres- 
tige which  was  then  only  in  the  making  and  indeed  was  as 
yet  somewhat  dubious.  Mr.  Lincoln's  ministers  had  no  idea 
that  he  towered  above  them,  and  no  one  of  them  was  at  all 
overawed  by  him  in  those  days.  Presiding  over  them  at  the 
Cabinet,  casually  meeting  them,  chatting  with  them  or 
lounging  as  was  his  habit  in  Stanton's  room,  Mr.  Lincoln 
seemed  only  officially  superior  to  them.  One  of  them  had 
expected  to  be  President,  and  another  meant  to  be,  a  third 
dared  to  be  insolent  and  unruly;  it  seemed  to  be  only  by  a 
chance  of  politics  that  these  men  stood  to  him  as  j  unior  part- 
ners to  a  senior,  or  like  a  board  of  directors  to  the  president 
of  a  corporation.  Apotheosis  had  not  taken  place;  Lincoln 
was  not  yet  the  victim  of  the  commonplace  orator,  the  favor- 
ite model  for  the  Sunday-school  teacher.  Deification  is  a 
post-mortuary  process,  and  efforts  to  bring  it  about  prema- 
turely are  ill  advised;  a  dead  idol  may  be  made  secure  upon 
a  pedestal,  but  a  living  one  is  sure  to  slip  off,  lucky  if  it  escapes 
with  mutilation  only,  and  not  irreparable  breakage.  At  the 
time  of  the  writing  of  this  Diary,  Lincoln  was  not  yet  dims; 
when  Mr.  Chase  said  that  to  argue  with  him  was  as  useless 
as  to  pour  water  on  a  duck's  back,  it  was  not  blasphemy, 
as  it  would  be  to-day.  When  Mr.  Seward  posed  as  his 
tutor,  it  seemed  to  many  persons  not  so  much  presumptu- 
ous as  possibly  fortunate;  when  Mr.  Stanton  was  defiant, 
not  a  few  were  ready  to  say  that  it  was  lucky  for  the  coun- 
try that  a  too  easy-going  President  had  a  masterful  Secre- 
tary. The  council  of  state  was  at  least  a  heterogeneous, 
if  not  quite  an  ill-assorted,  assemblage.  Mr.  Seward  pro- 


nounced  it  a  "compound  Cabinet,"  and  did  not  mean  to 
imply  commendation.  This  Diary  presents  almost  glar- 
ingly the  wide  difference  between  the  conduct  of  public 
business  and  that  of  private  business.  A  partnership 
wherein  the  partners  should  sustain  to  each  other  such  re- 
lations as  did  these  members  of  the  national  administra- 
tion, a  corporation  with  a  board  of  directors  so  discordant 
and  so  jealous,  would  be  in  the  bankruptcy  court  within  a 
year  or  two.  But  in  these  vast  competitions  of  the  coun- 
tries, results  come  slowly;  nations  have  no  relief  in  bank- 
ruptcy; their  managers  may  snatch  and  squabble  and 
blunder,  according  to  their  measure  of  brains  and  charac- 
ter, but  all  the  while  the  people  must  keep  on  doing  each 
day  its  daily  business  for  its  daily  bread  as  best  it  can, 
paying  the  bills  and  facing  the  consequences,  sure  that  it 
must  always  be  governed  somehow,  and  not  over  confident 
that  a  change  would  install  a  better  set  of  governors.  No 
one  who  has  studied  the  history  of  our  Civil  War,  and  who 
is  willing  to  speak  plain  truth  will  pretend  that  high  and 
generous  cooperation,  honest  dealing,  and  economic  effi- 
ciency reached  an  epidemic  prevalence.  The  splendid  skill 
with  which  Lincoln  held  together  and  made  useful  the 
members  of  this  " compound  Cabinet"  ought  to  be  better 
appreciated  hereafter,  by  reason  of  the  divulgements  by 
Mr.  Welles.  Washington  tried  the  like  experiment,  but  was 
not  able  to  make  it  work  permanently.  He  could  not  han- 
dle Hamilton  and  Jefferson  in  double  harness.  Lincoln, 
having  a  much  harder  task,  succeeded  with  it.  In  a  meas- 
ure his  success  was  due  to  the  different  character  of  the 
subordinate  material;  for  of  course  there  was  not  in  Lin- 
coln's Cabinet  anyone  approaching  the  ability  of  Hamilton 
as  a  statesman  or  that  of  Jefferson  as  a  politician.  It  was, 
however,  much  more  due  to  a  difference  between  the  chiefs 
themselves,  between  Washington  and  Lincoln.  Washing- 
ton's power  lay  in  a  certain  high  and  dignified  attitude  of 
supremacy;  Lincoln's  influence  lay  in  patience,  sagacity, 
tact,  knowledge  of  human  nature,  and  skill  with  the  indi- 


vidual.  For  example,  history  has  no  instance  of  a  situation 
more  difficult  or  of  an  extrication  more  brilliant  than  was 
presented  when,  in  December,  1862,  the  committee  of 
Republican  Senators  waited  upon  Mr.  Lincoln  with  a 
demand  for  Mr.  Seward's  removal.  Seward,  forewarned, 
had  already  hastened  to  resign;  a  day  or  two  later  Lincoln, 
with  a  deftness  like  the  feat  of  a  juggler,  secured  Chase's 
resignation  also.  "Now  I  can  ride,"  said  the  President; 
and  he  did  ride.  It  was  characteristic  that  in  this  critical 
hour  Stanton,  unhampered  by  loyalty,  was  on  the  point  of 
making  the  confusion  worse  by  adding  his  resignation;  but 
Mr.  Welles  rebuked  him  and  stood  gallantly  by  the  Pre- 
sident. Nor  was  it  the  only  instance  when,  in  tune  of  stress, 
the  Secretary  of  the  Navy  was  found  a  clear-headed,  firm, 
and  trustworthy  supporter  of  his  harassed  principal.  He 
played  a  like  part  in  the  matter  of  the  occult  move  for  dis- 
placing McClellan,  when  what  was  perhaps  the  right  thing 
was  undertaken  in  what  was  certainly  the  wrong  way.  At 
that  tune  it  was  largely  by  reason  of  the  refusal  of  Mr. 
Welles  to  participate  that  the  President  was  saved  from 
being  placed  in  a  very  annoying  position.  This  loyalty  and 
trustworthiness  of  the  Secretary  Mr.  Lincoln  well  appre- 
ciated, and  in  his  turn  upheld  Mr.  Welles  in  times  of  need 
or  controversy;  notably  when  Mr.  Stanton  arrogantly 
claimed  the  right  to  dominate  the  Navy  Department  and 
insisted  that  commanders  of  vessels  on  the  rivers  should 
take  orders  from  commanders  of  the  army  on  land.  Mr. 
Lincoln  made  short  work  of  this  theory.  It  is  reassuring  to 
find  these  two  shrewd  judges  of  character  entertaining  such 
reciprocal  esteem;  and  the  opinion  of  each  was  a  compli* 
ment  to  the  other. 

If  this  Diary  had  not  covered  the  period  of  the  Civil 
War,  it  would  probably  never  have  been  published.  Yet  so 
far  as  furnishing  valuable  matter  for  the  historian  goes,  it 
is  even  more  useful  for  the  four  succeeding  years;  and  the 
reason  is  not  far  to  seek.  From  the  exciting  times  of  war 


under  Mr.  Lincoln,  to  the  wearisome  days  of  Reconstruc- 
tion under  Mr.  Johnson,  was  a  transition  at  once  swift  and 
striking.  If  no  other  administration  since  the  birth  of  the 
United  States  has  made  history  which  has  been  read  with 
such  absorbing  interest  as  that  of  the  earlier  of  these  two 
administrations,  so  probably  no  other  period  has  been  so 
shunned  as  has  the  second  by  all  readers  who  are  not  quite 
students;  and  there  is  abundant  explanation  why  this 
should  be  so.  Wranglings  carried  on  by  politicians  in  Con- 
gress, sometimes  with  legal  arguments  and  always  with 
extravagant  abuse,  were  not  very  exhilarating  after  the 
intense  days  of  mortal  conflict  by  land  and  sea.  The  new 
scene  seemed  rather  ignoble  by  contrast  with  that  which 
had  passed.  During  the  War  there  had  been  certainly  a 
painful  display  of  corruption,  self-seeking,  inefficiency,  and 
disloyalty  on  the  part  of  a  much  too  numerous  minority; 
but  these  were  faults  in  the  superstructure;  the  basic  mul- 
titude of  the  people,  and  a  large  proportion  of  their  civilian 
leaders,  had  made  a  very  fine  and  inspiring  exhibition  of 
enduring  resolution  and  honest  patriotism.  To  what 
events  and  to  how  many  persons  can  one  turn,  during 
Johnson's  regime,  with  any  other  feelings  than  dismay, 
humiliation,  and  disgust?  To  no  events,  and  to  only  a  few 
persons,  in  good  truth ! 

For  a  little  while  after  Mr.  Johnson  became  President 
there  was  promise  of  reasonably  harmonious,  intelligent,  and 
even  creditable  action  in  the  matter  of  Reconstruction. 
But  differences  of  opinion  and  purpose,  which  were  pro- 
found, soon  developed,  and  thereupon  the  outcry  of  dis- 
pute, which  was  not  prevented  from  being  tedious  because 
it  was  acrimonious,  became  such  that  for  the  American  of 
to-day  the  narration  of  those  angry  discussions  seems  the 
arid  Sahara  in  our  national  history.  A  condition  never 
contemplated  by  the  framers  of  the  Constitution  had  to  be 
disposed  of  in  pretended  accordance  with  an  instrument 
which  had  not  a  word  to  say  concerning  such  problems.  It 
followed  that  every  one  was  at  liberty  to  assert  the  law  in 


the  premises  according  to  his  own  view  of  what  was  de- 
sirable ;  and  advantage  of  this  privilege  was  liberally  taken. 
On  the  one  hand  there  was  the  theory  that  the  Southern 
area  was  no  longer  an  aggregation  of  sovereign  States,  but 
had  become  conquered  territory  to  be  reorganized,  geo- 
graphically and  politically,  as  the  victors  might  choose.  On 
the  other  hand,  it  seemed  severely  logical  to  say  that  the 
North  had  fought  to  prove,  and  by  success  had  proved, 
that  States  could  never  withdraw  from  the  Union ;  where- 
fore they  continued  to  be  States  after  Lee's  surrender  just 
as  much  as  they  had  been  before  invalid  votes  had  under- 
taken to  effect  an  unlawful  secession.  Upon  these  trunk 
views  there  sprouted  many  variations,  big  and  little,  like 
branches  and  twigs  upon  two  great  trees.  The  unfortunate 
part  of  it  was  the  influence  upon  popular  feeling,  in  some 
degree  at  the  North,  and  in  a  greater  degree  at  the  South. 
For  the  contestants  worked  themselves  into  a  mad  fury 
about  the  business;  and  many  who  had  remained  at  a  safe 
distance  from  battlefields  now  indulged  a  rage  which  made 
up  in  savageness  of  feeling  for  the  absence  of  danger.  Ev- 
idently men  could  become  much  more  excited  when  they 
were  shouting  adjectives  than  when  they  were  shooting 
bullets,  and  Congress,  impelled  by  the  demagogues,  took 
action  which  brought  law-making  into  temporary  dis- 

Apart  from  the  technical  disputations  of  would-be  jur- 
ists, really  important  considerations  were  advanced  upon 
both  sides.  Arguments  for  rubbing  out  the  old  State  lines, 
with  their  dangerous  allegiances,  faced  arguments  for  re- 
taining traditional  sentiment  and  familiar  obligations; 
demands,  too  natural  to  be  called  vindictive,  for  requiring 
formal  avowals  of  error  and  penitence  were  met  by  sugges- 
tions of  the  wisdom  as  well  as  the  generosity  of  concilia- 
tion. Who  could  say  which  would  prove  the  better  way  in 
the  greater  number  of  cases,  when  treatment  which  would 
be  effective  with  one  individual  would  be  ineffective  with 
his  neighbor?  One  thing  only  can  now  be  surely  alleged, 


and  that  is  that  a  prompt  and  decisive  adoption  of  any 
plan  would  have  been  better  than  the  prolonged  wrang- 
lings  which  wearied,  discouraged,  and  above  all  embittered 
nearly  every  man  in  the  land. 

President  Johnson  and  Mr.  Welles  were  naturally  led 
by  both  intellectual  and  temperamental  influences  to  re- 
solve in  much  the  same  way  those  political  questions 
which  had  now  to  be  answered.  So  far  as  there  is  mate- 
rial for  inferring  what  would  have  been  Mr.  Lincoln's  posi- 
tion, there  seems  a  strong  probability  that  he  would  have 
ranged  himself  with  them,  or  at  least  not  far  apart  from 
them.  Of  late,  also,  as  passion  has  very  slowly  cooled 
and  personal  prejudices  have  at  last  almost  ceased  to  con- 
trol judgment,  students  of  a  later  generation  are  finding 
much  to  commend  in  the  policy  of  Andrew  Johnson.  Com- 
mendation of  his  policy,  however,  is  not  apt  to  be  accom- 
panied with  any  moderation  of  the  condemnatory  attitude 
towards  himself.  On  the  contrary,  his  personal  unpopu- 
larity and  his  abundant  indiscretions  are  charged  with  the 
responsibility  of  aggravating  the  seriousness  of  the  situa- 
tion far  beyond  what  was  necessary.  Yet,  in  fact,  the  clash 
was  inevitable,  the  opposite  opinions  had  their  foundation 
in  the  two  great  divisions  which  send  one  half  of  mankind 
into  the  radical  camp  and  the  other  half  into  the  conserv- 
ative; and  in  the  situation  and  the  problem  then  at  hand 
there  were  present  in  an  exceptional  degree  precisely  those 
elements  which  rouse  into  activity  alike  the  radical  and 
the  conservative  spirit.  In  fact  the  conflict  of  parties  at 
the  North  after  the  War  could  have  been  just  as  surely 
predicted  as  the  preliminary  conflict  between  the  North 
and  the  South. 

In  Mr.  Welles  there  was  nothing  of  the  radical;  his  sound 
good  sense  held  him  at  a  safe  distance  from  extremism; 
therefore,  so  soon  as  we  find  him  applying  the  word  "rad- 
ical" to  a  section  of  the  Republican  Party,  we  know  that  a 
schism  betwixt  them  and  him  is  at  hand.  Such  was  the 
case,  and  when  Mr.  Welles,  like  all  the  rest  of  the  coun- 


try,  was  swept  into  the  fray,  he  no  longer  found  at  his 
side  many  with  whom  during  recent  years  he  had  main- 
tained a  hearty  political  alliance.  What  had  happened 
before  the  War  was  about  to  happen  after  it;  that  is  to  say, 
new  questions  were  bringing  about  a  new  alignment.  The 
Republican  Party  could  not  keep  the  allegiance  of  all  those 
who  had  adhered  to  it  faithfully  during  and  even  before 
the  War.  But  the  prestige  of  the  party  name  was  so  great 
that  whichever  section  could  hold  possession  of  that  name 
and  preserve  an  appearance  of  political  continuity  was  sure 
to  prevail.  As  was  altogether  natural  in  days  of  such  ex- 
citement, this  advantage  fell  into  the  scale  of  the  extrem- 
ists, who  conducted  their  campaign  with  a  violence  that 
has  never  been  surpassed,  rarely  has  been  equalled,  in 
political  struggles.  Erelong  the  situation  was  that  Thad- 
deus  Stevens  and  Benjamin  F.  Butler  gave  orders  to  the 
Radicals,  that  the  Radicals  controlled  the  Republican 
Party,  and  the  Republican  Party  governed  the  country. 
Against  these  forces  a  President  and  Cabinet,  Republican 
also,  but  outnumbered  and  outshouted  in  their  own  camp, 
were  reduced  to  obstructing,  thwarting,  and  delaying 
measures  which  were  sure  ultimately  to  be  carried.  By 
all  precedents  such  a  conflict  in  the  political  family  was 
sure  to  be  most  bitter,  and  such  it  soon  became,  and  the 
spirit  which  thus  painfully  characterized  it  soon  makes 
itself  felt  hi  the  changed  note  of  the  Diary.  Thus  far 
there  has  been  strong,  pungent,  decisive  writing,  but  never 
immoderate;  now  we  drift  into  that  somewhat  rotund  and 
dignified  style  of  denunciation,  which  already  in  those  days 
was  getting  the  flavor  known  as  "of  the  old  school." 
With  alarming  adjectives  and  damnatory  phraseology  the 
most  villainous  motives  are  suggested,  wicked  schemes 
are  shadowed  forth,  and  awful  consequences  are  foretold. 
Reading  these  things,  we  should  despair  of  the  Republic, 
did  we  not  happily  know  that  it  is  still  doing  quite  well, 
though  how  it  escaped  from  such  a  pirates'  cave  we  can- 
not quite  see.  Since,  however,  we  have  the  comforting 


knowledge  that  the  escape  has  been  successfully  effected, 
we  feel  free  to  give  a  large  measure  of  approval  and  sym- 
pathy, at  least  to  the  substance  of  what  we  read.  When 
Mr.  Welles  assumed  the  role  of  a  constitutional  jurist  he 
was  far  sounder  than  were  his  antagonists;  it  is  true  that 
the  practical  efficiency  of  the  policies  which  he  would  have 
approved  was  not  brought  to  the  test  of  trial,  but  on  the 
other  hand  it  is  certain  that  the  policies  which  he  disap- 
proved made  no  gratifying  record;  moreover,  the  lash  of 
his  castigation  fell  generally  upon  backs  which  we  are 
willing  to  see  wince. 

It  has  been  remarked  that  it  is  especially  the  light  thrown 
by  this  Diary  upon  individuals  which  we  find  interesting, 
and  in  this  respect  this  second  part,  so  to  designate  it,  is 
even  better  than  the  first.  The  picture  of  Andrew  John- 
son is  altogether  the  most  favorable  which  has  ever  been 
given,  at  least  with  any  authority,  of  that  unfortunate 
man.  It  deserves  to  be  studied  with  great  interest,  for,  as 
has  been  said,  Mr.  Welles  was  a  very  shrewd  and  very  fair 
judge  of  men.  He  had  a  high  esteem  for  Johnson,  which 
was  not  only  the  loyalty  of  an  office-holder  towards  his 
chief,  but  was  also  a  sincere  esteem  and  genuine  personal 
liking.  It  is  safe  to  assume  that  the  excited  partisanship 
of  the  times  somewhat  stimulated  these  sentiments;  yet 
he  was  not  thus  prevented  from  often  criticizing  his  leader, 
and  he  seems  in  the  main  even-minded  and  judicious.  It 
may  be  that  the  publication  of  these  volumes  will  lead  to 
at  least  a  partial  revision  of  popular  opinion  concerning 
our  only  impeached  President. 

Very  much  is  said  of  General  Grant  and  this  also  will  be 
read  eagerly,  and  is  of  the  greatest  value.  Not  often  is  any 
one  man  great  in  war  and  great  in  peace,  and  the  reader 
of  these  pages  will  see  plainly  enough  that  there  was  no 
real  reason  for  expecting  General  Grant  to  achieve  better 
than  the  imperfect  success  which  he  did  in  the  Presidency. 
Nowhere  else  has  it  been  more  clearly  shown  how  little 
there  was  of  the  politician  in  his  nature,  and  how  easily  he 


could  be  ensnarled  by  unworthy  schemers.  The  incidents 
narrated  in  the  Diary,  while  showing  many  of  his  fine 
qualities,  also  betray  his  limitations  and  his  failings;  and 
there  is  one  scene,  between  Grant  and  Johnson,  which  cer- 
tainly ought  not  to  have  been  suppressed,  yet  which  can- 
not be  read  without  great  regret  and  pain.  On  the  whole, 
it  is  probable  that  most  readers  will  find  Grant  not  much 
fallen  in  their  esteem,  though  he  was  far  from  conducting 
himself  to  Mr.  Welles's  satisfaction.  It  is  only  statues 
which  are  made  wholly  of  marble;  the  original  hero  is  usu- 
ally more  or  less  patched  with  clay. 

Charles  Sumner  and  Mr.  Welles,  honest  and  earnest 
men  of  New  England,  coevals,  and  accustomed  alike  to 
the  conflicts  and  to  the  self-control  of  public  life,  were  able 
to  meet,  seem  indeed  to  have  liked  to  meet,  in  these  anxious 
days,  and  discuss  their  widely  divergent  views.  The  Diary 
contains  some  very  interesting  reports  of  their  talkings 
hi  the  earlier  stages  when  the  different  positions  were  being 
established.  Agreeing  hi  little,  they  came  most  directly 
into  opposition  upon  the  matter  of  giving  to  ex-slaves  the 
right  of  suffrage.  History  would  have  no  higher  function 
than  the  mere  gratification  of  curiosity  if  it  did  not  show 
to  us  the  more  remote  as  well  as  the  proximate  results  of 
human  action,  and  so  enable  us  to  draw  those  far-reaching 
conclusions  which  are  as  oil  for  the  lamp  of  experience. 
Now  by  what  history  shows  as  resulting  from  the  gift  of 
the  suffrage  made  to  the  negro  after  the  War,  it  would 
appear  that  no  more  evil  donation  was  ever  made  by  men. 
A  useless  teaching  this,  it  may  be  said,  since  it  cannot  be 
imagined  that  any  question  at  all  resembling  that  one  will 
ever  again  demand  settlement.  Perhaps  this  is  true;  but 
a  far  broader  lesson,  which  is  very  old  yet  not  antiquated, 
very  familiar  yet  not  needless,  receives  hereby  a  striking 
illustration,  to  wit:  that  when  short-sighted  mortals  un- 
dertake to  bring  about  a  good  thing  by  doing  a  wrong 
one,  they  easily  make  sure  of  the  wrong,  and  very  often 
lose  the  good.  If  a  negro  leader  could  then  have  arisen 


to  speak  for  his  race  and  say:  "No,  we  decline  this  tempt- 
ing, dangerous  gift  until  we  shall  be  able  to  use  it  wisely 
and  hold  it  firmly, "  he  would  have  been  the  most  far- 
seeing  mortal  of  whom  we  have  any  knowledge.  The  kind- 
ness was  as  if  one  should  put  money  in  the  hands  of  a 
little  child  and  bid  him  fare  forth  to  care  for  himself  hi 
the  crowds  of  city  streets.  Will  he  not  promptly  be  de- 
coyed, beaten,  robbed,  and  subjected  to  pains  such  as  he 
never  would  have  known  had  he  not  been  so  foolishly 
endowed?  There  were  many  motives  for  the  act.  Some 
persons  were  vindictive;  what  a  bitter  dose  they  would 
make  the  Southerner  take !  Some  were  really  negrophiles, 
and  honestly,  though  shortsightedly,  fancied  that  the  negro 
would  have,  in  his  vote,  a  weapon  of  self-defense  and  a 
means  of  making  himself  respected.  But  of  course  the 
politicians,  who  really  carried  the  measure  through,  did  so 
because  it  would  insure  a  South  as  solidly  Republican  for 
some  years  to  come  —  for  as  many  years  as  they  person- 
ally cared  about  —  as  it  had  been  solidly  Democratic  in 
years  past.  Just  here  Mr.  Welles  saw,  and  Mr.  Sumner 
could  not  see,  the  moral  wrong.  Was  it  not  just  as  immoral 
and  dishonest  to  obtain  a  majority  by  calling  these  poor 
ignorant  field  hands  " voters"  and  then  counting  their 
so-called  "  votes  "  as  by  counting  knavish  fellows  whose 
ballots  were  marketable  like  apples?  Was  the  "worker" 
who  led  these  benighted  creatures  from  the  rice  swamp 
or  the  cotton  field  to  the  polls  and  bid  them  put  a  certain 
slip  of  paper  into  the  box  really  entitled  to  a  clearer  con- 
science than  the  "heeler"  who  slipped  a  dollar  bill  into  an 
itching  palm  in  a  factory  or  a  bar-room  ?  To  what  greater 
strain  was  it  possible  to  subject  American  "free  institu- 
tions" than  to  pour  into  them  this  awful  flood  of  unfitness? 
And  how  great  was  the  responsibility  to  the  country,  even 
to  mankind,  in  risking  the  bringing  of  such  discredit  upon 
the  new  American  experiment !  Mr.  Welles  had  the  intel- 
ligence and  foresight  to  condemn  the  mischievous  scheme; 
he  declared  it  to  be  at  once  unconstitutional  and  ill-ad- 


vised;  but  Mr.  Sumner,  with  the  courage  of  fanaticism, 
was  ready  for  the  responsibility,  while  Stevens  and  Butler 
hardly  knew  what  the  word  responsibility  meant. 

As  the  immediate  outcome  of  Republican  success  in  this 
business,  there  ensued  the  two  or  three  years  of  negro  su- 
premacy in  the  Southern  States  and  the  riot  of  ignorant 
and  vicious  legislation.  The  spectacle  was  so  shocking  that 
historians  rarely  draw  it  with  vivid  or  minute  accuracy;  it 
has  been  hidden  away  out  of  sight,  and  constitutes  the  only 
really  suppressed  chapter  in  American  history.  The  only 
relief  was  that  excesses  which  would  soon  have  put  an  end 
to  government  itself  were  transitory;  to-day,  however,  we 
are  still  living  among  the  deferred  but  more  serious  and 
permanent  conditions  which  enable  us  to  judge  whether 
the  Secretary  or  the  Senator  was  arguing  on  the  right  side 
of  the  controversy.  Of  course  it  can  never  be  known  what 
results  would  have  been  worked  out  by  such  measures  as 
President  Johnson  and  Mr.  Welles  would  have  devised. 
That  is  necessarily  mere  matter  of  speculation,  and  when 
we  write  the  word  IF,  we  open  the  door  through  which 
imagination  can  pass  into  anarchic  freedom.  We  have, 
however,  Mr.  Welles's  word  for  it  that  he  would  by  no 
means  have  withheld  the  vote  from  negroes  as  such ;  that 
he  thought  them  as  fit  for  the  franchise  as  were  the  immi- 
grant hordes;  but  that  taken  in  bulk  he  did  not  think 
either  the  one  or  the  other  mass  was  fit  for  it.  Now,  tak- 
ing the  privilege  of  the  word,  if  the  franchise  had  been 
offered  to  each  individual  negro  so  soon  as,  but  only  so 
soon  as,  he  should  give  fair  evidence  of  his  competency  to 
exercise  it  intelligently,  would  there  not  probably  have 
been  a  steady  advancement,  yet  so  gradual  that  the 
"negro  question"  would  not  be  the  difficult  and  cruel 
problem  which  it  is  to-day?  The  truth  was  that  the  Rad- 
icals of  the  Johnson  days  were  really  thinking  of  votes, 
and  were  only  talking  of  negroes.  Mr.  Welles  set  aside 
temporary  political  expediency,  and  stood  for  good  sense 
and  sound  morality. 


Of  course  in  the  Andrew  Johnson  drama  the  spectacular 
act  is  the  impeachment.  Americans  who  so  lately  had  been 
holding  their  breath  as  they  watched  the  great  struggle 
waged  by  Grant  and  Sherman  against  Robert  E.  Lee,  now 
had  to  watch  with  more  painful  feelings  the  assault  of 
Benjamin  F.  Butler  and  Thaddeus  Stevens  against  the 
President  of  the  United  States.  It  is  indeed  to  "  look 
here  upon  this  picture,  and  on  this!"  Fain  would  all  cit- 
izens of  this  land  bury  out  of  sight  and  memory  the  shame 
of  that  endeavor,  so  discreditable  in  conception  and  pur- 
pose, so  disgraceful  in  conduct  and  conclusion.  But  the 
chapter  got  itself  written  and  every  one  must  read  it. 
This  Diary  furnishes  us  our  best,  practically  our  only, 
opportunity  to  see  the  interior  of  the  defendant's  council- 
chamber;  and  it  is  interesting  to  do  so.  By  this  time  Mr. 
Welles  had  become  pessimistic ;  to  him  evil  and  destruction 
seemed  to  pervade  the  air;  darkness  was  around  him,  and 
apprehension,  while  the  fate  of  his  country  was  trembling 
in  the  balance  not  less  dubiously  and  much  more  ignobly 
than  when  triumphant  Southern  troops  were  marching 
into  Pennsylvania.  He  considers  what  is  to  be  done  in 
the  anticipated  event  of  an  attempt  to  arrest  the  Presid- 
ent before  trial,  or  even  of  an  effort  to  depose  him.  Is  Gen- 
eral Grant  to  be  trusted?  Would  it  be  possible  to  turn  to 
Sherman  to  oppose  Grant,  in  case  of  the  ultimate  emerg- 
ency? Wild  fancies  and  improbable  terrors  perturbed 
the  staunch  little  band  of  the  President's  friends.  To  us 
now  these  seem  the  phantoms  of  panic ;  but  we  know  not 
the  unrealized  possibilities  of  those  days.  Even  for  us, 
merely  reading  a  bit  of  history,  there  is  not  much  gratifi- 
cation in  thinking  that  in  the  end  the  nation  was  saved 
from  the  infinite  disgrace  of  a  verdict  of  conviction  only 
because  in  the  great  body  of  her  legislators  a  corporal's 
guard  of  Republicans  could  be  found  with  the  courage 
and  the  honesty  to  assert  their  political  independence. 
That  we  are  obliged  to  rejoice  over  so  narrow  a  salvation 
of  the  national  honor  is  in  itself  hardly  honorable. 


After  this  great  struggle  passed,  lassitude  ensued;  there 
was  not  much  for  either  side  to  do  now  save  to  wait,  to  drag 
through  the  tedious  months  which  yet  remained  of  John- 
son's term.  The  end  came  of  course  at  noon  on  March  4, 
1869,  when  General  Grant  advanced  to  take  his  turn  at  the 
difficult  task,  then  so  exceptionally  difficult,  of  ruling  the 
country,  healing  the  still  stinging  wounds,  and  pleasing  the 
people.  With  all  his  popularity  and  prestige  he  did  not  find 
that  his  plough  was  set  for  an  easy  furrow.  On  March  17, 
1869,  Mr.  Welles  "parted  with  ex-President  Johnson  and 
family,"  and  he  writes  in  his  Diary  that  "no  better  per- 
sons have  occupied  the  Executive  Mansion,  and  I  part 
from  them,  socially  and  personally,  with  sincere  regret." 
A  month  later  he  took  his  own  departure  with  "reluct- 
ance." At  his  age  the  change  signified,  of  course,  that  activ- 
ities were  over,  and  that  during  his  remaining  years  he 
must  watch  rather  than  share  in  the  interesting  toil  and 
struggle  of  life.  Apart  from  this  reflection  the  removal 
from  the  capital  brought  also  the  curtailment  of  pleasures 
which  had  meant  much  to  him.  He  had  an  inborn  taste  for 
what  we  call  "Society,"  and  he  was  well  fitted  to  play  a 
prominent  and  effective  part  in  it.  In  point  of  personal  ap- 
pearance Nature  had  dealt  kindly  by  him.  Mr.  Seward's 
intellectual  greatness  was  certainly  inadequately  expressed 
by  his  wizened  face  and  ordinary  form.  Mr.  Chase's  stately 
deportment,  on  the  other  hand,  was  such  an  exaggeration 
of  Jovian  grandeur  as  seemed  to  outrun  severe  good  taste. 
Mr.  Stanton  was  the  incarnation  of  the  bourgeoisie  in  its 
American  type.  From  much  better  endowed  rivals  Mr. 
Welles  would  easily  have  carried  off  the  honors  of  the  dig- 
nified and  handsome  gentleman  of  the  official  circle.  He 
was  complacently  aware  of  these  advantages  of  features, 
form,  and  manner,  and  did  not  neglect  their  due  cultiva- 
tion. At  that  time,  it  is  true,  Washington  was  by  no  means 
the  beautiful  city  which  the  lavish  profusion  of  "boss" 
Shepherd  soon  afterward  made  it,  and  it  was  only  begin- 
ning to  attract  the  rich  and  varied  throng  which  now  fills  it 


every  winter.  It  was  then  only  the  place  where  the  nation's 
business  was  done;  yet  even  thus  it  had  a  numerous  and 
ever  changing  society  of  able,  interesting,  noteworthy  men 
with  whom  it  was  most  agreeable  to  mingle.  All  this  life 
Mr.  Welles  had  thoroughly  appreciated,  and  it  could 
hardly  be  altogether  gratifying  to  pack  his  household  goods 
and  gods  for  flight  to  a  Connecticut  town.  It  was  natural 
that  on  the  eve  of  this  flitting  he  should  write  gravely,  al- 
most sadly.  Yet  one  would  think  that  there  must  have 
been  some  sense  of  relief  at  closing  such  a  service  as  that 
which  he  had  been  rendering  to  Mr.  Johnson.  It  would 
have  been  bad  enough  to  be  engaged  in  conducting  even  a 
successful  grapple  with  men  who  fought  after  the  fashion 
adopted  by  Stevens  and  Butler  and  their  followers;  but 
to  have  been  constantly  forced  backward,  kept  upon  the 
defensive,  harried  and  assailed  by  such  men  had  been  a 
severe  test  of  temper  and  constancy.  It  must  have  been 
courage  and  honor  and  duty  that  had  made  Mr.  Welles 
endure  to  the  end,  as  he  did  with  unflinching  spirit,  and 
he  was  well  entitled  to  write  that  his  duties  had  been 
"honestly  and  fearlessly  discharged";  posterity  will  add 
also  "  honorably  and  efficiently."  However  his  feelings 
may  have  been  mingled  between  a  consciousness  of  loss 
and  of  relief,  his  sound  good  sense  told  him  that  it  was 
"best  that  the  brief  span  of  life  that  remains  to  me  should 
be  passed  in  the  land  of  my  nativity."  Thither  accordingly 
he  went,  man  fashion,  without  repining,  and  found  such 
occupation  as  he  could  in  literary  work,  chiefly  for  maga- 
zines. He  died  at  Hartford,  February  11,  1878.  We  bid 
him  farewell  with  respect  for  him  as  a  distinguished  public 
servant  and  with  good  will  towards  him  as  an  upright 
man;  neither  can  we  neglect  to  say  that  all  the  good  serv- 
ice which  he  rendered  to  his  contemporaries  was  not  of 
greater  value  than  the  legacy  which  he  left  to  posterity  in 
this  invaluable  Diary. 



1861  — MARCH  30,  1864 


1861  — MARCH  30,  1864 

:r:Z         !.*;•*  i     r:;.;/t:'' 


The  Expedition  for  the  Relief  of  Sumter  —  Mr.  Seward's  Interference  — 
Porter  and  Barron  —  The  Relief  of  Fort  Pickens  —  Conversation  with 
Senator  Douglas  —  Mr.  Seward's  Intrigues  —  The  Loss  of  the  Norfolk 
Navy  Yard  —  The  Appointment  of  Stanton  as  Secretary  of  War  — 
The  Relations  of  Seward  and  Stanton  —  Fear  of  the  Merrimac  in  Wash- 
ington —  "  Stanton's  Navy." 

ON  the  6th  of  March,  1861,  two  days  after  the  inaugura- 
tion of  President  Lincoln,  Secretary  Holt,  who  continued 
to  discharge  the  duties  of  Secretary  of  War,  Mr.  Cameron 
not  being  prepared  to  enter  at  once  upon  the  duties,  called 
at  the  Navy  Department  with  the  compliments  of  General 
Scott  and  requested  my  attendance  at  the  War  Depart- 
ment on  matters  of  special  importance.  I  went  immedi- 
ately with  him  to  the  office  of  the  Secretary  of  War,  where 
were  Generals  Scott  and  Totten,  and  I  think  Secretary 
Cameron,  and  perhaps  one  or  two  others. 

General  Scott  commenced  with  a  statement  of  the  peril- 
ous condition  of  the  country  and  of  the  difficulties  and 
embarrassments  he  had  experienced  for  months  past;  re- 
lated the  measures  and  precautions  he  had  taken  for  the 
public  safety,  the  advice  and  admonitions  he  had  given 

1  This  first  chapter  is  not  a  part  of  Mr.  Welles's  diary,  having  been  writ- 
ten several  years  after  the  events  narrated,  but  since  it  gives  a  vivid  first- 
hand account  of  these  events,  which  occurred  before  the  actual  diary  was 
begun,  it  may  properly  be  considered  a  part  of  the  record. 


President  Buchanan,  which,  however,  had  been  disregarded, 
and,  finally,  his  apprehensions,  perhaps  convictions,  that 
hostilities  were  imminent  and,  he  feared,  inevitable.  He 
had,  with  the  knowledge  of  Secretary  Holt,  taken  the  re- 
sponsibility of  ordering  a  small  military  force  to  Washing- 
ton for  the  protection  of  the  government  and  the  public 
property  and  archives,  and  other  troops  were  on  then*  way 
from  the  West.  His  statement  was  full,  clear  in  its  details, 
and  of  absorbing  interest  to  those  of  us  who  were  to  meet 
and  provide  for  the  conflict  now  at  hand.  Among  other 
matters,  and  that  for  which  he  had  especially  requested 
our  attendance  that  morning,  was  certain  intelligence  of 
a  distressing  character  from  Major  Anderson  at  Fort  Sum- 
ter,  stating  that  his  supplies  were  almost  exhausted,  that 
he  could  get  no  provisions  in  Charleston,  and  that  he  with 
his  small  command  would  be  wholly  destitute  in  about 
six  weeks.  Under  these  circumstances  it  became  a  question 
what  action  should  be  taken,  and  for  that  purpose,  as  well 
as  to  advise  us  of  the  condition  of  affairs,  he  had  convened 
the  gentlemen  present. 

The  information  was  to  most  of  us  unexpected  and 
astounding,  and  there  was,  on  the  part  of  such  of  us  as 
had  no  previous  intimation  of  the  condition  of  things  at 
Surnter,  an  earnest  determination  to  take  immediate  and 
efficient  measures  to  relieve  and  reinforce  the  garrison. 
But  General  Scott,  without  opposing  this  spontaneous 
resolution,  related  the  difficulties  which  had  already  taken 
place,  and  stated  the  formidable  obstacles  which  were  to  be 
encountered  from  the  numerous  and  well-manned  batteries 
that  were  erected  in  Charleston  Harbor.  Any  successful 
attempt  to  reinforce  or  relieve  the  garrison  by  sea  he  sup- 
posed impracticable.  An  attempt  had  already  been  made 
and  failed.  The  question  was,  however,  one  for  naval 
authorities  to  decide,  for  the  army  could  do  nothing.  Com- 
mander Ward,  a  gallant  officer,  had  tendered  his  services 
on  a  former  occasion  when  the  subject  was  considered,  and 
was  ready  at  any  time  to  take  command  of  an  expedition, 


if  one  were  ordered.  General  Scott  said  he  did  not  expect 
any  conclusion  would  be  arrived  at,  at  this  meeting.  He 
had  called  the  gentlemen  together  by  direction  of  the  Pre- 
sident to  communicate  what  information  he  had,  and  was 
glad  to  have  his  mind  relieved  of  overburthened  care  and 
responsibility  with  which  it  had  been  loaded  for  months. 
He  especially  requested  me  to  consult  with  naval  men,  and 
had  thought  it  advisable  that  Commander  Ward,  then 
on  the  receiving-ship  at  Brooklyn,  should  come  to  Wash- 
ington, as  he  had  already  been  made  somewhat  familiar 
with  the  subject. 

The  meeting  adjourned  with  an  understanding  that  we 
would  come  together  on  the  following  day  at  the  Execu- 
tive Mansion.  In  the  mean  time  the  gentlemen  were  to  give 
the  subject  earnest  consideration. 

When  we  met  on  the  succeeding  day,  the  same  gentle- 
men, with  the  exception  of  Judge  Holt,  were  present,  and 
there  were  two  or  three  others,  beside  the  President. 

Many  of  the  naval  officers  then  in  Washington  and 
about  the  Navy  Department  were  of  questionable  fidelity. 
A  number  had  already  resigned  and  most  of  those  who 
were  tainted  with  secession  soon  left  the  service;  but  some 
of  them,  on  a  further  consideration  of  the  subject,  aided 
perhaps  by  adventitious  circumstances,  determined  to 
abide  by  the  flag  and  the  Union.  Whilst  there  were  doubts 
and  uncertainty  on  every  hand  as  to  who  could  be  trusted, 
I  knew  Commodore  Stringham  to  be  faithful,  and  there- 
fore had,  with  the  concurrence  of  the  President,  selected 
him  to  assist  me  in  matters  of  detail.  With  him  I  commun- 
icated freely  and  fully  in  regard  to  the  condition  of  Sum- 
ter  and  the  ability  of  the  Navy  to  throw  in  supplies  for  its 
relief.  Both  he  and  Commander  Ward  were  confident  that 
the  Navy  could  reinforce  the  garrison  and  furnish  it  with 
men  and  provisions.  The  President  had  been  apprised  of 
the  condition  of  things  at  Sumter,  on  the  4th  of  March, 
and  had  referred  the  subject  to  General  Scott  for  advice, 
with  directions  to  consult  the  Secretaries  of  War  and  Navy. 


Some,  but  not  a  very  lengthened,  discussion  took  place  at 
this  first  interview  at  the  Executive  Mansion.  There  was 
a  very  general  and  very  determined  opinion  expressed  that 
Fort  Sumter  ought  to  be  and  should  be  reinforced.  Major 
Anderson  and  all  the  officers  of  the  garrison  expressed  in 
a  measure  the  professional  opinion  that  reinforcements 
could  not  be  thrown  into  the  fort  in  time  for  their  relief 
with  a  force  of  less  than  twenty  thousand  good  and  well- 
disciplined  men.  Generals  Scott  and  Totten  declared  it 
was  impracticable,  and  Mr.  Seward,  who  made  many  sug- 
gestions and  inquiries,  had  doubts,  and  was  evidently 
wholly  opposed  to  any  attempt  at  relief. 

No  conclusion  was  required  or  expected  at  this  niter- 
view.  The  President  then,  and  until  decisive  steps  were 
finally  taken,  was  averse  to  offensive  measures,  and  anxious 
to  avoid  them.  In  council,  and  in  personal  interviews  with 
myself  and  others,  he  enjoined  upon  each  and  all  to  for- 
bear giving  any  cause  of  offense;  and  as  regarded  party 
changes  consequent  upon  a  change  of  administration, 
while  they  would  necessarily  be  made  elsewhere,  he  wished 
no  removal  for  political  causes  to  be  made  hi  the  Southern 
States,  and  especially  not  in  Virginia.  Although  disturbed 
by  the  fact  that  the  supplies  of  the  garrison  at  Sumter 
were  so  limited,  he  was  disinclined  to  hasty  action,  and 
wished  time  for  the  Administration  to  get  in  working  order 
and  its  policy  to  be  understood.  He  desired,  I  think  on  the 
suggestion  of  Mr.  Seward,  that  General  Scott  should  pre- 
pare a  statement  of  the  position  of  Sumter,  and  of  the  other 
batteries,  and  of  preparations  in  Charleston  and  Charles- 
ton Harbor,  —  the  strength  of  each,  how  far  and  long  could 
the  garrison  maintain  itself  and  repel  an  attack  if  made, 
what  force  would  be  necessary  to  overcome  any  rebel  force 
or  organized  military  of  the  State  of  South  Carolina,  should 
she  bid  defiance  to  and  resist  the  Federal  authorities. 

No  regular  Cabinet-meetings  were  held  in  these  days, 
nor  for  several  weeks  subsequently,  but  the  heads  of  De- 
partments were  frequently  convened,  always  by  special 


summons  through  the  Secretary  of  State.  Sometimes 
there  was  not  a  full  attendance,  but  on  such  occasions 
when  there  was  an  omission  to  invite  any  members,  the 
absentees  were  considered  not  particularly  interested  in 
the  questions  submitted,  or  the  questions  did  not  affect  the 
unrepresented  Departments. 

The  Secretary  of  State  was,  of  course,  apprised  of  every 
meeting  and  never  failed  in  his  attendance,  whatever  was 
the  subject-matter,  and  though  entirely  out  of  his  official 
province.  He  was  vigilantly  attentive  to  every  measure 
and  movement  in  other  Departments,  however  trivial,  — 
as  much  so  as  to  his  own,  — watched  and  scrutinized  every 
appointment  that  was  made  or  proposed  to  be  made,  but 
was  not  communicative  in  regard  to  the  transactions  of 
the  State  Department.  Other  members  began  to  inter- 
change views  on  these  proceedings  by  which  one  of  the 
heads  of  Departments  was  exclusively  apprised  on  all 
measures,  and  at  length  Mr.  Chase,  as  the  second  in  rank 
and  by  request  of  his  associates,  inquired  at  one  of  the 
special  meetings,  whether  it  had  not  been  usual  in  past 
administrations  to  have  regular  Cabinet-meetings  on  stated 
days  of  each  week,  and  if  it  would  not  be  conducive  to 
unity  and  efficiency  were  the  Administration  to  conform 
to  past  usage  in  that  respect, 

Mr.  Seward  very  promptly  replied  that  it  was  not  ad- 
visable to  consume  the  time  of  all  the  gentlemen  on  stated 
days  and  when  perhaps  it  would  be  unnecessary.  The 
President  had  only  to  send  word  to  the  State  Department, 
at  any  tune,  day  or  night,  when  he  wanted  to  call  his  Cabi- 
net together,  or  any  portion  of  them,  and  he,  Seward, 
would  take  upon  himself  to  have  every  member  notified 
whose  attendance  was  required.  The  times  were  such,  he 
remarked,  that  the  President  might  find  it  necessary  to 
call  them,  or  portions  of  them,  frequently,  perhaps  daily, 
and  even  oftener,  together,  for  consultation. 

It  was  said  on  the  other  hand,  by  all  the  members  except 
Mr.  Seward,  that  the  stated  meetings  need  not  prevent 


special  calls  whenever  the  President  deemed  proper,  and 
that  it  was  advisable,  for  the  sake  of  unity  and  efficacy, 
that  all  the  members  should  attend  these  meetings  and 
share  hi  the  responsibility,  instead  of  having  partial 

The  President  concurred  in  these  views  of  the  majority, 
and  it  was  decided  that  thereafter  the  Cabinet  should 
assemble  at  meridian  on  Tuesdays  and  Fridays. 

Commander  Ward,  who  was  summoned  to  Washington, 
expressed  his  readiness  to  receive  orders  and  to  carry 
supplies  to  Sumter.  He  had  volunteered  to  perform  this 
service  to  the  late  administration,  but  his  offer  was  then 
declined.  There  was  a  belief  at  that  time  that  the  garrison 
could  not  be  reinforced  by  the  Navy,  and  to  attempt  it 
would,  President  Buchanan  feared,  bring  on  hostilities. 
This  in  substance  was  the  report  of  Commander  Ward  to 
me.  I  called  with  him  on  General  Scott,  who  I  then  per- 
ceived was  now  decidedly  opposed  to  any  attempt  to  re- 
lieve Major  Anderson.  The  Navy  he  was  confident  could 
not  do  it,  and  an  army  of  at  least  twenty  thousand  men 
would  be  necessary,  he  said,  to  effect  it.  We  had  no  such 
army,  and  the  Government  could  not  collect  and  arm  one, 
to  say  nothing  of  the  discipline  and  training,  before  the 
garrison  would  starve.  Commander  Ward  and  also  Com- 
modore Stringham  at  first  thought  that  a  supply  of  pro- 
visions and  a  small  number  of  men  might  be  thrown  into 
the  fort  by  means  of  two  small  fast  tugs,  which  could  run 
in  hi  the  night.  Even  if  one  of  the  tugs  was  lost,  which  they 
did  not  believe  would  be  the  case,  the  other  could  relieve 
the  garrison.  Of  course,  the  tugs  would  be  abandoned  after 
landing  the  men,  each  one  of  whom  was  to  have  his  sack 
of  provisions  if  they  could  land  no  more.  The  crews  of  the 
tugs  as  well  as  the  small  additional  military  force  would 
join  the  garrison  and  share  its  fate. 

In  subsequent  interviews  with  Generals  Scott  and 
Totten,  Commander  Ward  became  less  confident  and  was 
finally  convinced  that  relief  was  impracticable.  He  advised 



me  that  the  scheme  should  be  abandoned.  Commodore 
Stringham  came  ultimately  but  reluctantly  to  the  same 
conclusion,  after  the  elaborate  report  of  the  two  generals, 
who  maintained  that  if  supplies  could  be  furnished  the 
garrison,  the  fort  itself  could  not  hold  out  against  the  at- 
tack of  the  surrounding  batteries  which  the  Secessionists 
had  been  allowed  to  erect  and  fortify  for  the  reduction 
of  Sumter. 

Mr.  Seward,  who  from  the  first  had  viewed  with  no 
favor  any  attempt  to  relieve  Sumter,  soon  became  a  very 
decisive  and  emphatic  opponent  of  any  proposition  that 
was  made;  said  he  had  entertained  doubts,  and  the  opin- 
ions and  arguments  of  Major  Anderson  and  his  officers, 
confirmed  by  the  distinguished  military  officers  who  were 
consulted,  had  fully  convinced  him  that  it  would  be  abort- 
ive and  useless.  It  was  a  duty  to  defer  to  these  military 
gentlemen,  whose  profession  and  study  made  them  experts, 
who  had  by  long  and  faithful  service  justly  acquired  the 
positions  they  held,  and  who  possessed  the  confidence  of 
the  country.  It  was,  he  was  satisfied,  impossible  to  relieve 
and  reinforce  the  garrison;  the  attempt  would  provoke  im- 
mediate hostilities,  and  if  hostilities  could  not  be  avoided, 
he  deemed  it  important  that  the  Administration  should 
not  strike  the  first  blow. 

The  President,  though  much  distressed  with  the  conclu- 
sions of  the  military  officers,  and  the  decisive  concurrence 
of  the  Secretary  of  State  in  those  conclusions,  appeared 
to  acquiesce  in  what  seemed  to  be  a  military  necessity, 
but  was  not  disposed  to  yield  until  the  last  moment,  and 
when  there  was  no  hope  of  accomplishing  the  work  if  at- 
tempted. In  the  mean  time,  he  sent  Mr.  Lamon,  his  late 
law-partner,  to  Charleston  and  others  also  to  make  in- 
quiries, among  them  Mr.  Fox,  who,  like  Commander  Ward, 
had  been  a  volunteer  under  the  late  administration  to 
relieve  Sumter  and  who  never  abandoned  the  idea  of  its 

Commander  Ward  was  so  fully  convinced  by  the  argu- 


ments  of  General  Scott  and  General  Totten  and  the  opin- 
ions of  the  officers  of  the  garrison,  so  dissuaded  by  the 
opposition  of  Mr.  Seward  and  the  general  current  of  views 
which  prevailed,  that  he  wholly  abandoned  the  project, 
stating,  however,  that  he  held  himself  in  readiness  to  obey 
orders  and  take  charge  of  an  expedition,  if  the  Government 
should  at  any  time  deem  it  expedient  that  an  effort  should 
be  made.  On  the  llth  of  March  he  left  Washington,  and 
returned  to  New  York. 

A  strange  state  of  things  existed  at  that  time  in  Wash- 
ington. The  atmosphere  was  thick  with  treason.  Party 
spirit  and  old  party  differences  prevailed,  however,  amidst 
these  accumulating  dangers.  Secession  was  considered  by 
most  persons  as  a  political  party  question,  not  as  rebellion. 
Democrats  to  a  large  extent  sympathized  with  the  Rebels 
more  than  with  the  Administration,  which  they  opposed, 
not  that  they  wished  secession  to  be  successful  and.  the 
Union  divided,  but  they  hoped  that  President  Lincoln  and 
the  Republicans  would,  overwhelmed  by  obstacles  and 
embarrassments,  prove  failures.  The  Republicans,  on  the 
other  hand,  were  scarcely  less  partisan  and  unreasonable. 
Crowds  of  them  at  this  period,  when  the  storm  of  civil  war 
was  about  bursting  on  the  country,  thronged  the  ante- 
rooms of  the  President  and  Secretaries,  clamorous  for  the 
removal  of  all  Democrats,  indiscriminately,  from  office. 
Patriotism  was  with  them  no  test,  no  shield  from  party 
malevolence.  They  demanded  the  proscription  and  ex- 
clusion of  such  Democrats  as  opposed  the  Rebel  move- 
ments and  clung  to  the  Union,  with  the  same  vehemence 
that  they  demanded  the  removal  of  the  worst  Rebels  who 
advocated  a  dissolution  of  the  Union. 

Neither  party  appeared  to  be  apprehensive  of  or  to  real- 
ize the  gathering  storm.  There  was  a  general  belief,  in- 
dulged in  by  most  persons,  that  an  adjustment  would  in 
some  way  be  brought  about,  without  any  extensive  resort 
to  extreme  measures.  It  seemed  probable  there  might  be 
some  outbreak  in  South  Carolina,  and  perhaps  in  one  or 


two  other  places,  but  such  would,  it  was  believed,  be  soon 
and  easily  suppressed.  The  threatened  violence  which  the 
milliners  had  thundered  for  thirty  years  in  the  ears  of 
the  people  had  caused  then'  threats  to  be  considered  as  the 
harmless  ebullitions  of  excited  demagogues  throughout 
the  North,  while  at  the  South  those  utterances  had  so 
trained  the  Southern  mind,  and  fired  the  Southern  heart, 
as  to  cause  them  to  be  received  as  truthful.  The  South 
were,  therefore,  more  united  and  earnest  at  this  crisis, 
more  determined  on  seceding,  than  either  the  Democrats 
or  Republicans  supposed.  But,  while  the  great  body  of 
the  people  and  most  of  their  leaders  in  the  Northern  States, 
listening  to  the  ninety-day  prophecies  of  Mr.  Seward,  were 
incredulous  as  to  any  extensive,  serious  disturbance,  there 
were  not  a  few  whose  forebodings  were  grave  and  sad.  All 
the  calamities  which  soon  befell  the  country  these  men 
anticipated.  Yet  such  as  were  in  positions  of  responsibility 
would  not  permit  themselves  to  despond,  or  despair  of  the 
Republic.  Mr.  Seward  possessed  a  hopeful  and  buoyant 
spirit  which  did  not  fail  him  in  that  dark  period,  and  at  no 
time  were  his  party  f  eelings  more  decided  than  during  the 
spring  of  1861.  Old  Whig  associates  he  clung  to  and  strove 
to  retain.  All  Democrats  he  distrusted,  unless  they  became 
identified  with  the  Republican  Party.  He  had  probably 
overestimated  his  own  power  and  ability  to  allay  the  rising 
storm,  and  had  not  the  personal  influence  he  supposed. 
He  had  prophesied  during  the  winter  peace  and  harmony, 
within  a  very  brief  period  after  the  change  of  administra- 
tion was  to  be  effected.  These  unfortunate  prophecies, 
which  became  a  matter  of  mirth  with  many  of  his  friends 
and  of  ridicule  among  his  opponents,  were  not  entirely  vain 
imaginings  or  without  some  foundation.  In  the  confident 
belief  that  he  could,  if  once  in  place  and  power,  effect  con- 
ciliation and  peace,  it  had  been  an  object  with  him  to  tide 
the  difficulties  past  the  4th  of  March.  He  therefore  had 
operated  to  that  end,  and  so  had  Mr.  Buchanan,  though 
for  different  reasons. 


Through  Mr.  Stanton,  after  that  gentleman  entered  Mr. 
Buchanan's  Cabinet,  Mr.  Seward  and  others  were  secretly 
advised  in  regard  to  the  important  measures  of  the 
Buchanan  Administration,  and  in  the  course  of  the  winter 
Mr.  Seward  came  to  an  understanding,  as  was  alleged  and 
as  events  and  circumstances  indicated,  with  certain  of  the 
leading  Secessionists.  Among  other  things  it  was  asserted 
that  an  agreement  had  been  entered  into  that  no  assault 
should  be  made  on  Fort  Sumter,  provided  the  garrison 
should  not  be  reinforced.  Mr.  Buchanan  was  to  observe 
the  status  thus  understood  during  the  short  remaining  pe- 
riod of  his  administration,  and  Mr.  Seward,  as  the  coming 
premier,  was,  on  the  change  of  administration,  to  carry 
forward  the  policy  of  non-reinforcement  of  Sumter.  If  not 
supplied  or  reinforced,  famine  would  certainly  effect  the 
downfall  of  the  fortress  without  bloodshed  on  either  side. 
Until  blood  was  spilled,  there  was  hope  of  conciliation.  In 
fulfillment  of  this  arrangement,  Mr.  Seward  opposed  any 
and  every  scheme  to  reinforce  Sumter,  and  General  Scott, 
who  was  old  and  much  under  his  influence,  if  not  a  party 
to  the  understanding,  seconded  or  took  a  leading  part  in 
that  opposition. 

On  the  5th  of  March  commissioners  from  the  Rebel 
Government  arrived  in  Washington  and  soon  put  them- 
selves in  communication  with  the  Secretary  of  State,  but 
the  specific  object  which  they  had  in  view,  and  the  nego- 
tiations or  understanding  between  him  and  the  parties 
were  not  immediately  detailed  to  the  Cabinet.  They  un- 
doubtedly influenced  the  mind  and  course  of  Mr.  Seward, 
who  did  not  relinquish  the  hope  of  a  peaceful  adjustment 
of  difficulties,  and  he  in  conversation  continued  to  allure 
his  friends  with  the  belief  that  he  should  be  able  to  effect 
a  reconciliation. 

In  the  many,  almost  daily,  discussions  which  for  a  time 
were  held  in  regard  to  Sumter,  the  opposition  to  forward- 
ing supplies  gathered  strength.  Commodore  Stringham, 
as  well  as  Commander  Ward,  on  a  final  application  which 


I  made  to  him,  by  request  of  the  President,  and  finally 
by  the  President  himself,  said  he  was  compelled  to  advise 
against  it.  The  tune  had  gone  by.  It  was  too  late.  The  mil- 
itary gentlemen  had  satisfied  him  it  was  impossible,  that 
nothing  could  be  gained  by  it,  were  the  attempt  made, 
that  it  would  be  attended  with  a  useless  sacrifice  of  blood 
and  treasure,  and  he  felt  constrained  to  state  his  belief  of 
the  inability  of  the  Navy  to  give  relief. 

Postmaster-General  Blair,  who  had  been  a  close  and  near 
observer  of  what  had  taken  place  through  the  whiter 
and  spring,  took  an  opposite  view  from  Mr.  Seward  and 
General  Scott.  To  some  extent  he  was  aware  of  the  un- 
derstanding which  Mr.  Seward  had  with  the  members  of 
Buchanan's  Administration,  or  was  suspicious  of  it,  and  his 
indignation  that  any  idea  of  abandoning  Sumter  should 
be  entertained  or  thought  of  was  unbounded.  With  the 
exception  of  Mr.  Seward,  all  his  colleagues  concurred  with 
Mr.  Blair  at  the  commencement,  but  as  the  subject  was 
discussed,  and  the  impossibility  and  inutility  of  the  scheme 
was  urged,  with  assurance  from  the  first  military  men  in 
the  country,  whose  advice  was  sought  and  given,  that  it 
was  a  military  necessity  to  leave  Sumter  to  its  fate,  the 
opinions  of  men  changed,  or  they  began  at  least  to  waver. 
Mr.  Blair  saw  these  misgivings,  in  which  he  did  not  at  all 
participate,  and  finally,  observing  that  the  President,  with 
the  acquiescence  of  the  Cabinet,  was  about  adopting  the 
Seward  and  Scott  policy,  he  wrote  his  resignation,  de- 
termined not  to  continue  hi  the  Cabinet  if  no  attempt 
were  made  to  relieve  Fort  Sumter.  Before  handing  in  his 
resignation,  a  delay  was  made  at  the  request  of  his  father. 
The  elder  Blair  sought  an  interview  with  the  President,  to 
whom  he  entered  his  protest  against  non-action,  which  he 
denounced  as  the  offspring  of  intrigue.  His  earnestness 
and  indignation  aroused  and  electrified  the  President;  and 
when,  in  his  zeal,  Blair  warned  the  President  that  the  aban- 
donment of  Sumter  would  be  justly  considered  by  the 
people,  by  the  world,  by  history,  as  treason  to  the  country, 


he  touched  a  chord  that  responded  to  his  invocation. 
The  President  decided  from  that  moment  that  an  attempt 
should  be  made  to  convey  supplies  to  Major  Anderson, 
and  that  he  would  reinforce  Sumter.  This  determination 
he  communicated  to  the  members  of  the  Cabinet  as  he  saw 
them,  without  a  general  announcement  in  Cabinet-meet- 
ing. The  resolve  inspired  all  the  members  with  hope  and 
courage,  except  Mr.  Seward,  who  was  evidently  disap- 
pointed. He  said  it  was  of  vastly  more  importance  to  turn 
our  attention  to  Fort  Pickens.  I  told  him  this  had  been 
done  and  how;  that  we  had  a  considerable  naval  force  there, 
almost  the  whole  of  the  Home  Squadron,  and  we  had  sent, 
a  fortnight  before,  orders  to  land  the  troops  under  Captain 
Vogdes  from  the  Brooklyn.  He  said  that  still  more  should, 
hi  his  opinion,  be  done;  that  it  was  practicable  to  save 
Fort  Pickens,  but  it  was  confessedly  impossible  to  retain 
Sumter.  One  would  be  a  waste  of  effort  and  energy  and 
life,  would  extinguish  all  hope  of  peace,  and  compel  the 
Government  to  take  the  initiative  in  hostile  demonstra- 
tions, while  the  other  would  be  an  effective  and  peace- 
able movement.  Although,  as  already  mentioned,  stated 
Cabinet-meetings  were  not  then  established,  the  members 
were  in  those  early  days  of  the  Administration  frequently 
together,  and  the  President  had  every  day  more  or  less 
interviews  with  them,  individually  or  collectively.  The 
Secretary  of  State  spent  much  of  each  day  at  the  Execu- 
tive Mansion  and  was  vigilant  to  possess  himself  of  every 
act,  move,  and  intention  of  the  President  and  of  each  of 
his  associates.  Perhaps  there  was  an  equal  desire  on  their 
part  to  be  informed  of  the  proceedings  of  the  Administra- 
tion in  full,  but  less  was  known  of  the  transactions  of  the 
State  Department  than  of  any  other. 

The  President,  after  his  interview  with  the  elder  Blah*, 
asked  me  if  a  naval  expedition  could  be  promptly  fitted 
out  to  relieve  Sumter.  Mr.  Fox,1  who  had  in  February 
proposed  to  the  Buchanan  Administration  a  plan  for  the 

1  Gustavus  V.  Fox,  subsequently  Assistant  Secretary  of  the  Navy. 


relief  of  Sumter,  again  volunteered  for  the  service,  and 
was  accepted  by  Mr.  Lincoln.  On  the  19th  of  March  he 
received  the  following  communication  from  General  Scott : 


Washington,  March  19,  1861. 

DEAR  SIR:  In  accordance  with  the  request  contained  in  a  note 
from  the  Secretary  of  War  to  me,  of  which  I  annex  a  copy,  I  re- 
quest that  you  will  have  the  goodness  to  proceed  to  Charleston, 
S.  C.,  and  obtain  permission,  if  necessary,  to  visit  Fort  Sumter, 
in  order  to  enable  you  to  comply  with  the  wish  expressed  in  the 
Secretary's  note. 

Please,  on  your  return,  to  report  accordingly. 

I  remain,  with  high  consideration,  your  most  obedient  serv- 


G.  V.  Fox,  ESQ. 

Mr.  Fox  visited  the  fort  and  saw  Major  Anderson,  and 
was  confident  he  could  reinforce  the  garrison  with  men 
and  supply  it  with  provisions.  Commodore  Stringham 
was  tendered  the  command  of  the  naval  part  of  the  expe- 
dition, but  doubted  the  practicability  of  succeeding.  The 
President,  notwithstanding  Stringham's  reluctance,  de- 
termined to  accept  the  volunteer  services  of  Mr.  Fox,  who, 
though  then  in  no  way  connected  with  the  Government, 
had  formerly  been  an  officer  of  the  Navy.  The  object 
being  the  relief  of  a  military  garrison  and  the  supplies  and 
troops  for  reinforcement  being  from  the  army,  the  expe- 
dition was  made  a  military  and  not  a  naval  one,  but  with 
naval  aid  and  cooperation.  The  transports  which  the  War 
Department  was  to  charter  were  to  rendezvous  off  Charles- 
ton with  the  naval  vessels,  which  would  act  as  convoy,  and 
render  such  assistance  as  would  be  required  of  them.  The 
steam  frigate  Powhatan,  which  had  returned  from  service 
in  the  West  Indies  and  needed  considerable  repairs,  had 
just  arrived  and  been  ordered  out  of  commission,  and  the 
crew  discharged  the  day  before  the  final  decision  of  the 
President  was  communicated.  Dispatches  were  forthwith 


sent  revoking  the  orders  which  had  been  issued,  directing 
that  the  Powhatan  be  again  put  in  commission,  and  to  fit 
her  without  delay  for  brief  service.  The  Pawnee  and  one 
or  two  other  vessels,  including  the  Harriet  Lane,  a  revenue 
cutter  transferred  to  the  Navy  for  the  occasion,  there*not 
being  sufficient  naval  vessels  available  for  the  expedition, 
were  ordered  to  be  in  readiness  for  sea  service  on  or  before 
the  6th  of  April  with  one  month's  stores  on  board.  These 
preparatory  orders  were  given  on  the  30th  of  March. 

On  the  1st  of  April,  while  at  my  dinner  at  Willard's, 
where  I  then  boarded,  Mr.  Nicolay,  the  private  secretary 
of  the  President,  brought  to  me  and  laid  upon  the  table  a 
large  package  from  the  President.  It  was  between  five  and 
six  o'clock  in  the  afternoon  when  I  received  this  package, 
which  I  immediately  examined  and  found  it  contained 
several  papers  of  a  singular  character,  in  the  nature  of  in- 
structions, or  orders  from  the  Executive  in  relation  to  naval 
matters,  and  one  in  reference  to  the  government  of  the 
Navy  Department  more  singular  and  remarkable  than 
either  of  the  others.  This  extraordinary  document  was  as 
follows :  — 


EXECUTIVE  MANSION,  April  1,  1861. 
To  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy. 

DEAR  SIR:  You  will  issue  instructions  to  Captain  Pendergrast, 
commanding  the  home  squadron,  to  remain  in  observation  at 
Vera  Cruz  —  important  complications  in  our  foreign  relations 
rendering  the  presence  of  an  officer  of  rank  there  of  great  import- 

Captain  Stringham  will  be  directed  to  proceed  to  Pensacola 
with  all  possible  despatch,  and  assume  command  of  that  portion 
of  the  home  squadron  stationed  off  Pensacola.  He  will  have  con- 
fidential instructions  to  cooperate  in  every  way  with  the  com- 
manders of  the  land  forces  of  the  United  States  in  that  neighbor- 

The  instructions  to  the  army  officers,  which  are  strictly  con- 
fidential, will  be  communicated  to  Captain  Stringham  after  he 
arrives  at  Pensacola. 


Captain  Samuel  Barren  will  relieve  Captain  Stringham  in 
charge  of  the  Bureau  of  Detail. 


P.  S.  As  it  is  very  necessary  at  this  time  to  have  a  perfect  know- 
ledge of  the  personal  of  the  navy,  and  to  be  able  to  detail  such 
officers  for  special  purposes  as  the  exigencies  of  the  service  may 
require,  I  request  that  you  will  instruct  Captain  Barren  to  pro- 
ceed and  organize  the  Bureau  of  Detail  in  the  manner  best 
adapted  to  meet  the  wants  of  the  navy,  taking  cognizance  of  the 
discipline  of  the  navy  generally,  detailing  all  officers  for  duty, 
taking  charge  of  the  recruiting  of  seamen,  supervising  charges 
made  against  officers,  and  all  matters  relating  to  duties  which 
must  be  best  understood  by  a  sea  officer.  You  will  please  afford 
Captain  Barren  any  facility  for  accomplishing  this  duty,  trans- 
ferring to  his  department  the  clerical  force  heretofore  used  for 
the  purposes  specified.  It  is  to  be  understood  that  this  officer 
will  act  by  authority  of  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy,  who  will 
exercise  such  supervision  as  he  may  deem  necessary. 


Without  a  moment's  delay  I  went  to  the  President  with 
the  package  in  my  hand.  He  was  alone  in  his  office  and, 
raising  his  head  from  the  table  at  which  he  was  writing, 
inquired,  "What  have  I  done  wrong?"  I  informed  him  I 
had  received  with  surprise  the  package  containing  his  in- 
structions respecting  the  Navy  and  the  Navy  Department, 
and  I  desired  some  explanation.  I  then  called  his  atten- 
tion particularly  to  the  foregoing  document,  which  I  read 
to  him.  This  letter  was  in  the  handwriting  of  Captain 
Meigs  of  the  army,  then  Quartermaster-General;  the  post- 
script in  that  of  David  D.  Porter,  since  made  Vice-Ad- 
miral.  The  President  expressed  as  much  surprise  as  I  felt, 
that  he  had  sent  me  such  a  document.  He  said  Mr.  Seward, 
with  two  or  three  young  men,  had  been  there  through  the 
day  on  a  subject  which  he  (Seward)  had  in  hand,  and 
which  he  had  been  some  time  maturing;  that  it  was  Sew- 
ard's  specialty,  to  which  he,  the  President,  had  yielded,  but 
as  it  involved  considerable  details,  he  had  left  Mr.  Seward 


to  prepare  the  necessary  papers.  These  papers  he  had 
signed,  many  of  them  without  reading,  —  for  he  had  not 
time,  and  if  he  could  not  trust  the  Secretary  of  State,  he 
knew  not  whom  he  could  trust.  I  asked  who  were  asso- 
ciated with  Mr.  Seward.  "No  one,"  said  the  President, 
"but  these  young  men  were  here  as  clerks  to  write  down 
his  plans  and  orders."  Most  of  the  work  was  done,  he  said, 
in  the  other  room.  I  then  asked  if  he  knew  the  young  men. 
He  said  one  was  Captain  Meigs,  another  was  a  naval  officer 
named  Porter. 

I  informed  the  President  that  I  was  not  prepared  to 
trust  Captain  Barren,  who  was  by  this  singular  pro- 
ceeding, issued  in  his  name,  to  be  forced  into  personal  and 
official  intimacy  with  me.  He  said  he  knew  nothing  of 
Barren  except  he  had  a  general  recollection  that  there 
was  such  an  officer  in  the  Navy.  The  detailing  officer  of 
the  Department,  I  said  to  him,  ought  to  have  the  implicit 
confidence  of  the  Secretary,  and  should  be  selected  by  him. 
This  the  President  assented  to  most  fully.  I  then  told 
him  that  Barron,  though  a  pliant  gentleman,  had  not  my 
confidence,  and  I  thought  him  not  entitled  to  that  of  the 
President  in  these  times;  that  his  associations,  feelings, 
and  views,  so  far  as  I  had  ascertained  them,  were  with  the 
Secessionists;  that  he  belonged  to  a  clique  of  exclusives, 
most  of  whom  were  tainted  with  secession  notions;  that, 
though  I  was  not  prepared  to  say  he  would  desert  us  when 
the  crisis  came  on,  I  was  apprehensive  of  it,  and  while  I 
would  treat  him  kindly,  considerately,  and  hoped  he  would 
not  prove  false  like  most  others  of  his  set,  I  could  not 
give  him  the  trust  which  the  instructions  imposed. 

The  President  reiterated  they  were  not  his  instructions, 
though  signed  by  him,  that  the  paper  was  an  improper  one, 
that  he  wished  me  to  give  it  no  more  consideration  than  I 
thought  proper,  to  treat  it  as  canceled,  or  as  if  it  had  never 
been  written.  He  said  he  remembered  that  both  Seward 
and  Porter  had  something  to  say  about  Barron,  as  if  he 
was  a  superior  officer,  and  hi  some  respects,  perhaps,  with- 


out  any  equal  in  the  Navy,  but  he  certainly  never  would 
have  assigned  him  or  any  other  man  knowingly  the  posi- 
tion without  consulting  me. 

Barren  was  a  courtier,  of  mild  and  affable  manners,  a 
prominent  and  influential  officer,  especially  influential 
with  the  clique  which  recognized  him  as  a  leader.  He  and 
D.  D.  Porter  were  intimate  friends,  and  both  were  favor- 
ites of  Jefferson  Davis,  Slidell,  and  other  Secessionists, 
who,  I  had  learned,  paid  them  assiduous  attention. 

When  I  took  charge  of  the  Navy  Department,  I  found 
great  demoralization  and  defection  among  the  naval  of- 
ficers. It  was  difficult  to  ascertain  who  among  those  that 
lingered  about  Washington  could  and  who  were  not  to  be 
trusted.  Some  belonging  to  the  Barren  clique  had  already 
sent  in  their  resignations.  Others,  it  was  well  understood, 
were  prepared  to  do  so  as  soon  as  a  blow  was  struck.  Some 
were  hesitating,  undecided  what  step  to  take.  Barron, 
Buchanan,  Maury,  Porter,  and  Magruder  were  in  Wash- 
ington, and  each  and  all  were,  during  that  unhappy  winter, 
courted  and  caressed  by  the  Secessionists,  who  desired  to 
win  them  to  their  cause.  I  was  by  reliable  friends  put  on 
my  guard  as  respected  each  of  them.  Buchanan,  Maury, 
and  Magruder  were  each  holding  prominent  place  and  on 
duty.  Barron  was  familiar  with  civil  and  naval  matters, 
was  prepared  for  any  service,  ready  to  be  called  to  dis- 
charge such  duties  as  are  constantly  arising  in  the  Depart- 
ment, requiring  the  talents  of  an  intelligent  officer. 

Porter  had  some  of  the  qualities  of  Barron,  with  more 
dash  and  energy,  was  less  plausible,  more  audacious,  and 
careless  in  his  statements,  but  like  him  was  given  to  in- 
trigues. His  associations,  as  well  as  Barron's,  during  the 
winter  of  1861,  had  been  intimate  with  the  Secessionists. 
He  sought  and  obtained  orders  for  Coast  Survey  service 
in  the  Pacific,  which  indicated  an  intention  to  avoid  active 
participation  in  the  approaching  controversy.  That  class 
of  officers  who  at  such  a  time  sought  duties  in  the  Pacific 
and  on  foreign  stations  were  considered,  prima  facie,  as  in 


sympathy  with  the  Secessionists,  but  yet  not  prepared  to 
give  up  their  commissions  and  abandon  the  Government. 
No  men  were  more  fully  aware  that  a  conflict  was  impend- 
ing, and  that,  if  hostilities  commenced  and  they  were 
within  the  call  of  the  Department,  they  would  be  required 
to  participate.  Hence  a  disposition  to  evade  an  unpleasant 
dilemma  by  going  away  was  not  misunderstood. 

Barron  and  Porter  occupied  in  the  month  of  March  an 
equivocal  position.  They  were  intimate,  they  were  popu- 
lar, and  the  eye  of  the  Department  was  necessarily  upon 
them,  as  it  was,  indeed,  upon  all  in  the  service.  In  two  or 
three  interviews  with  me,  Barron  deprecated  the  unfor- 
tunate condition  of  the  country,  expressed  his  hopes  that 
extreme  measures  would  not  be  resorted  to,  avowed  his 
love  for  the  profession  with  which  from  early  childhood 
he  had  been  identified  and  in  which  so  many  of  his  family 
had  distinguished  connection.  There  were  suavity  in  his 
manner  and  kindly  sentiments  in  his  remarks,  but  not  that 
earnest,  devoted  patriotism  which  the  times  demanded, 
and  which  broke  forth  from  others  of  his  profession,  in 
denunciation  of  treason  and  infidelity  to  the  flag.  Porter 
had  presented  himself  but  once  to  the  Department,  and 
that  was  to  make  some  inquiries  in  relation  to  his  orders 
to  the  Pacific,  but  there  was  no  allusion  to  the  impending 
difficulties  nor  any  proffer  of  service  if  difficulties  ensued. 
As  with  many  others,  some  of  whom  abandoned  the  Gov- 
ernment, while  some  remained  and  rendered  valuable 
service,  the  Department  was  in  doubt  what  course  these 
two  officers  would  pursue. 

This  was  the  state  of  the  case  when  the  instructions  of 
the  1st  of  April  were  sent  me.  On  learning  from  the  Pre- 
sident who  were  Mr.  Seward's  associates,  I  was  satisfied 
that  Porter  had  through  him  proposed  and  urged  the 
substitution  of  Barron  for  Stringham  as  the  detailing  and 
confidential  officer  of  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy.  I  was 
unwilling  to  believe  that  my  colleague  Mr.  Seward  could 
connive  at,  or  be  party  to,  so  improper  and  gross  an  affair 


as  to  interfere  with  the  organization  of  my  Department,  and 
jeopardize  its  operations  at  such  a  juncture.  What,  then, 
were  the  contrivances  which  he  was  maturing  with  two 
young  officers,  one  of  the  army  and  the  other  of  the  Navy, 
without  consulting  the  Secretary  of  War  or  the  Secretary 
of  the  Navy  ?  What  had  he,  the  Secretary  of  State,  to  do 
with  these  officers  in  any  respect?  I  could  get  no  satis- 
factory explanation  from  the  President  of  the  origin  of  this 
strange  interference,  which  mystified  him,  and  which  he 
censured  and  condemned  more  severely  than  myself.  He 
assured  me  it  would  never  occur  again.  Although  very 
much  disturbed  by  the  disclosure,  he  was  anxious  to  avoid 
difficulty,  and,  to  shield  Mr.  Seward,  took  to  himself  the 
whole  blame  and  repeatedly  said  that  I  must  pay  no  more 
attention  to  the  papers  sent  me  than  I  thought  advisable. 
He  gave  me,  however,  at  that  time  no  information  of  the 
scheme  which  Mr.  Seward  had  promoted,  farther  than 
that  it  was  a  specialty,  which  Mr.  Seward  wished  should 
be  kept  secret.  I  therefore  pressed  for  no  further  disclos- 

The  instructions  in  relation  to  Barron  I  treated  as  null- 
ities. My  first  conclusions  were  that  Mr.  Seward  had  been 
made  a  victim  to  an  intrigue,  artfully  contrived  by  those 
who  favored  and  were  promoting  the  Rebellion,  and  that 
the  paper  had  been  in  some  way  surreptitiously  introduced 
with  others  in  the  hurry  and  confusion  of  that  busy  day 
without  his  knowledge.  That  he  would  commit  the  discour- 
tesy of  imposing  on  me  such  instructions  I  was  unwilling'to 
believe,  and  that  he  should  be  instrumental  in  placing,  or 
attempting  to  place,  a  person  more  than  suspected,  and 
who  was  occupying  so  equivocal  a  position  as  Barron,  in 
so  responsible  a  position  in  the  Navy  Department,  and 
commit  to  him  all  the  information  of  that  branch  of  the 
Government,  seemed  to  me  impossible. 

The  preparations  for  the  Sumter  expedition  were  carried 
forward  with  all  the  energy  which  the  Department  could 
command,  for  we  were  notified  the  provisions  of  the  garri- 


son  would  be  exhausted  on  the  15th  of  April.  It  was  ar- 
ranged by  the  War  and  Navy  Departments  that  their 
forces  —  the  naval  vessels  and  transports  —  should  meet 
and  rendezvous  ten  miles  due  east  of  Charleston  lighthouse 
on  the  morning  of  the  llth  of  April.  Each  of  the  vessels 
was  to  report  to  Gapt.  Samuel  Mercer,  commanding  the 
Powhatan,  and  the  following  final  instructions  were  sent  to 
that  officer:  — 


NAVY  DEPARTMENT,  April  5,  1861. 

Captain   Samuel  Mercer,   commanding  U.  S.  Steamer  Pow- 
hatan, N.  Y. 

The  United  States  Steamers  Powhatan,  Pawnee,  Pocahontas, 
and  Harriet  Lane  will  compose  a  naval  force  under  your  com- 
mand, to  be  sent  to  the  vicinity  of  Charleston,  S.  C.,  for  the  pur- 
pose of  aiding  in  carrying  out  the  objects  of  an  expedition  of 
which  the  War  Department  has  charge. 

The  primary  object  of  the  expedition  is  to  provision  Fort 
Sumter,  for  which  purpose  the  War  Department  will  furnish  the 
necessary  transports.  Should  the  authorities  of  Charleston  per- 
mit the  fort  to  be  supplied,  no  further  particular  service  will  be 
required  of  the  force  under  your  command;  and  after  being  satis- 
fied that  supplies  have  been  received  at  the  fort,  the  Powhatan, 
Pocahontas,  and  Harriet  Lane  will  return  to  New  York,  and  the 
Pawnee  to  Washington. 

Should  the  authorities  at  Charleston,  however,  refuse  to  per- 
mit, or  attempt  to  prevent  the  vessel  or  vessels  having  supplies 
on  board  from  entering  the  harbor,  or  from  peaceably  proceeding 
to  Fort  Sumter,  you  will  protect  the  transports  or  boats  of  the 
expedition  in  the  object  of  their  mission,  disposing  of  your  force 
in  such  manner  as  to  open  the  way  for  their  ingress,  and  afford 
as  far  as  practicable  security  to  the  men  and  boats,  and  repelling 
by  force  if  necessary  all  obstructions  toward  provisioning  the 
fort  and  reinforcing  it;  for  hi  case  of  a  resistance  to  the  peaceable 
primary  object  of  the  expedition,  a  reinforcement  of  the  garri- 
son will  also  be  attempted.  These  purposes  will  be  under  the 
supervision  of  the  War  Department,  which  has  charge  of  the 
expedition.  The  expedition  has  been  intrusted  to  Captain  G.  V. 
Fox,  with  whom  you  will  put  yourself  in  communication,  and 


cooperate  with  him  to  accomplish  and   carry  into  effect  its 

You  will  leave  New  York  with  the  Powhatan  in  time  to  be 
off  Charleston  bar,  ten  miles  distant  from  and  due  east  of  the 
light-house,  on  the  morning  of  the  llth  instant,  there  to  await 
the  arrival  of  the  transport  or  transports  with  troops  and  stores. 
The  Pawnee  and  Pocahontas  will  be  ordered  to  join  you  there 
at  the  time  mentioned,  and  also  the  Harriet  Lane,  which  latter 
vessel  has  been  placed  under  the  control  of  this  Department 
for  this  service. 

On  the  termination  of  the  expedition,  whether  it  be  peaceable 
or  otherwise,  the  several  vessels  under  your  command  will  re- 
turn to  the  respective  ports  as  above  directed,  unless  some  un- 
foreseen circumstance  should  prevent. 
I  am,  respectfully, 

Your  Obd't  Serv't, 


Secretary  of  the  Navy. 

Sealed  orders  were  given  to  Commander  Rowan  of  the 
Pawnee,  Commander  Gillis  of  the  Pocahontas,  and  Cap- 
tain Tanner  of  the  Harriet  Lane,  to  report  to  Captain 
Mercer  on  the  llth  of  April,  and  the  entire  military  and 
naval  expedition  was  to  be  under  the  command  of  Mr. 
Fox,  who  was  specially  commissioned  by  the  President 
and  received  his  instructions  from  the  Secretary  of  War. 
My  instructions  to  Captain  Mercer  were  read  to  the  Pre- 
sident on  the  5th  of  April,  who  approved  them.  Although 
but  brief  time  had  been  permitted  us  to  fit  out  the  expedi- 
tion, I  congratulated  myself,  when  I  went  to  my  room  at 
Willard's  on  the  evening  of  the  6th  of  April,  that  it  had 
been  accomplished  within  the  tune  given  us,  and  that  the 
force  had  probably  sailed. 

Between  eleven  and  twelve  that  night,  Mr.  Seward  and 
his  son  Frederick  came  to  my  rooms  at  Willard's  with 
a  telegram  from  Captain  Meigs  at  New  York,  stating  hi 
effect  that  the  movements  were  retarded  and  embarrassed 
by  conflicting  orders  from  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy.  I 
asked  an  explanation,  for  I  could  not  understand  the  nature 


of  the  telegram  or  its  object.  Mr.  Seward  said  he  sup- 
posed it  related  to  the  Powhatan  and  Porter's  command. 
I  assured  him  he  was  mistaken,  that  Porter  had  no  com- 
mand, and  that  the  Powhatan  was  the  flagship,  as  he  was 
aware,  of  the  Sumter  expedition.  He  thought  there  must 
be  some  mistake,  and  after  a  few  moments'  conversation, 
with  some  excitement  on  my  part,  it  was  suggested  that 
we  had  better  call  on  the  President.  Before  doing  this,  I 
sent  for  Commodore  Stringham,  who  was  boarding  at 
Willard's  and  had  retired  for  the  night.  When  he  came,  my 
statement  was  confirmed  by  him,  and  he  went  with  us,  as 
did  Mr.  Frederick  Seward,  to  the  President.  On  our  way 
thither  Mr.  Seward  remarked  that,  old  as  he  was,  he  had 
learned  a  lesson  from  this  affair,  and  that  was,  he  had  bet- 
ter attend  to  his  own  business  and  confine  his  labors  to  his 
own  Department.  To  this  I  cordially  assented. 

The  President  had  not  retired  when  we  reached  the 
Executive  Mansion,  although  it  was  nearly  midnight.  On 
seeing  us  he  was  surprised,  and  his  surprise  was  not  dimin- 
ished on  learning  our  errand.  He  looked  first  at  one  and 
then  the  other,  and  declared  there  was  some  mistake,  but 
after  again  hearing  the  facts  stated,  and  again  looking  at 
the  telegram,  he  asked  if  I  was  not  in  error  in  regard  to  the 
Powhatan,  —  if  some  other  vessel  was  not  the  flagship 
of  the  Sumter  expedition.  I  assured  him  there  was  no  mis- 
take on  my  part;  reminded  him  that  I  had  read  to  him 
my  confidential  instructions  to  Captain  Mercer.  He  said 
he  remembered  that  fact,  and  that  he  approved  of  them, 
but  he  could  not  remember  that  the  Powhatan  was  the 
vessel.  Commodore  Stringham  confirmed  my  statement, 
but  to  make  the  matter  perfectly  clear  to  the  President,  I 
went  to  the  Navy  Department  and  brought  and  read  to 
him  the  instructions.  He  then  remembered  distinctly  all 
the  facts,  and,  turning  promptly  to  Mr.  Seward,  said  the 
Powhatan  must  be  restored  to  Mercer,  that  on  no  account 
must  the  Sumter  expedition  fail  or  be  interfered  with.  Mr. 
Seward  hesitated,  remonstrated,  asked  if  the  other  expedi- 


tion  was  not  quite  as  important,  and  whether  that  would 
not  be  defeated  if  the  Powhatan  was  detached.  The  Pre- 
sident said  the  other  had  time  and  could  wait,  but  no  time 
was  to  be  lost  as  regarded  Sumter,  and  he  directed  Mr. 
Seward  to  telegraph  and  return  the  Powhatan  to  Mercer 
without  delay.  Mr.  Seward  suggested  the  difficulty  of 
getting  a  dispatch  through  and  to  the  Navy  Yard  at  so 
late  an  hour,  but  the  President  was  imperative  that  it 
should  be  done. 

The  President  then,  and  subsequently,  informed  me  that 
Mr.  Seward  had  his  heart  set  on  reinforcing  Fort  Pickens, 
and  that  between  them,  on  Mr.  Seward's  suggestion,  they 
had  arranged  for  supplies  and  reinforcements  to  be  sent 
out  at  the  same  time  we  were  fitting  out  vessels  for  Sumter, 
but  with  no  intention  whatever  of  interfering  with  the 
latter  expedition.  He  took  upon  himself  the  whole  blame, 
said  it  was  carelessness,  heedlessness  on  his  part,  he  ought 
to  have  been  more  careful  and  attentive.  President  Lin- 
coln never  shunned  any  responsibility  and  often  declared 
that  he,  and  not  his  Cabinet,  was  in  fault  for  errors  im- 
puted to  them,  when  I  sometimes  thought  otherwise. 

Mr.  Seward  never  attempted  any  explanation.  He  was 
not  communicative  on  that  night,  nor  afterwards,  though 
there  were  occasional  allusions,  by  myself,  to  that  singular 
transaction.  Mr.  Cameron  was  greatly  incensed;  com- 
plained that  Mr.  Seward  was  trying  to  run  the  War  De- 
partment, had  caused  Captain  Meigs  to  desert;  said  he 
would  have  Meigs  arrested  and  tried  by  court  martial, 
that  he  was  absent  without  leave,  was  expending  the  mili- 
tary appropriations  without  authority  from  the  Secretary 
of  War.  My  grievance  was  somewhat  similar.  Although 
Lieutenant  Porter  had  gone  with  the  Powhatan  to  Pensa- 
cola,  there  was  no  order  or  record  in  the  Navy  Department 
of  the  facts.  He  was  absent  without  leave;  the  last  sailing- 
orders  to  the  Powhatan  were  [sent  to]  Mercer.  The  whole 
proceeding  was  irregular  and  could  admit  of  no  justifica- 
tion without  impeaching  the  integrity  or  ability  of  the 


Secretaries  of  War  and  Navy.  No  one  was  more  aware  of 
this  than  the  President,  and,  solicitous  that  there  should  be 
no  disagreement  or  cause  for  disagreement  in  his  Cabinet, 
he  was  not  comforted  by  any  reflection  or  examination  of 
the  subject.  A  large  portion  of  the  Home  Squadron  was  off 
Pensacola,  and  no  additional  vessels  were  required  nor 
could  well  be  spared  for  that  station  whilst  we  were  want- 
ing them  and  many  more  this  side  of  Key  West.  I  had, 
moreover,  on  the  earnest  application  of  Lieutenant-General 
Scott,  sent  the  Crusader  and  Mohawk  already  into  the 
Gulf  with  orders  to  Captain  Adams,  the  senior  officer  off 
Pensacola,  to  land  the  troops  in  order  to  reinforce  Fort 
Pickens.  No  additional  frigate  like  the  Powhatan  was 
needed  there,  while  she  was  indispensable  here.  That  ves- 
sel gave  no  greater  security  to  Pickens.  The  troops,  with 
the  naval  force  already  there,  were  abundantly  able  to  de- 
fend it,  as  results  proved.  Besides,  the  defense  was  mili- 
tary, not  naval,  and  could  easily  have  been  reinforced. 
Hence  the  reinforcements  were  stolen  away  from  Sumter 
and  sent  to  Pickens. 

When  at  a  later  date  I  saw  the  communication  of  the 
Rebel  commissioners  of  the  9th  of  April  to  Mr.  Seward  and 
also  Judge  Campbell's  letter  of  the  13th  of  that  month, 
I  had  one  of  the  keys  to  the  mystery  and  movements  of 
Mr.  Seward.  The  commissioners  state  that  "on  the  15th 
of  March  Messrs.  Forsyth  and  Crawford  were  assured 
by  a  person  occupying  a  high  official  position  in  the 
Government,  and  who,  as  they  believed,  was  speaking  by 
authority,  that  Fort  Sumter  would  be  evacuated  within  a 
very  few  days,  and  that  no  measure  changing  the  existing 
status  prejudicially  to  the  Confederate  States  as  respects 
Fort  Pickens  was  then  contemplated;  and  these  assurances 
were  subsequently  repeated,  with  the  addition  that  any 
contemplated  change  as  respects  Pickens  [= Sumter]  would 
be  notified  to  us.  On  the  1st  of  April  we  were  again 
informed  that  there  might  be  an  attempt  to  supply  Fort 
Sumter  with  provisions,  but  that  Gov.  Pickens  should 


have  previous  notice  of  this  attempt.   There  was  no  sug- 
gestion of  any  reinforcements." 

Judge  Campbell  and  Judge  Nelson  of  the  Supreme 
Court  were  the  high  officials  alluded  to,  and  the  former 
in  his  letter  of  the  13th  of  April  to  Mr.  Seward  says,  "On 
the  1st  of  April  I  received  from  you  the  statement  in  writ- 
ing: I  am  satisfied  the  govt.  will  not  undertake  to  supply 
Fort  Sumter  without  giving  notice  to  Gov.  P."  The  1st 
of  April  was  the  day  on  which  Mr.  Seward,  assisted  by 
Meigs  and  Porter,  prepared  the  strange  series  of  instruc- 
tions to  me  which  President  Lincoln  signed  without  read- 
ing, directing  that  Captain  Barren  should  be  made  the 
confidential  detailing  officer  of  the  Department  with  ex- 
traordinary powers.  It  was  on  the  1st  of  April  that  carte 
blanche  was  given  to  the  two  young  officers,  investing  them 
with  full  governmental  powers  and  authorizing  them  to 
act  independently  of  then*  superiors  and  of  the  heads  of 
their  respective  departments,  by  which  a  military  expedi- 
tion was  sent  out  without  the  knowledge  of  the  Secretary 
of  War  and  a  naval  ship  under  orders  was  taken  from  her 
destination,  her  commander  displaced,  and  her  cruise 
broken  up  without  the  knowledge  of  the  Secretary  of  the 
Navy,  whereby  the  whole  plan  of  sending  supplies  and  re- 
inforcements to  Fort  Sumter  was  defeated.  The  Secretary 
of  State  writes  the  Rebel  commission  he  is  satisfied  the 
Government  will  not  undertake  to  supply  Fort  Sumter 
without  giving  notice  to  Governor  P.,  when  at  the  very 
moment  he  knew  the  whole  energies  of  the  War  and  Navy 
Departments  were  engaged  by  order  of  the  President  in 
preparations  to  forward  supplies  and  reinforcements  to 
Sumter.  All  was  rendered  abortive,  however,  by  secretly 
detaching  the  Powhatan,  the  flagship  to  which  the  squad- 
ron was  to  report  and  which  had  the  supplies. 

On  the  night  of  the  6th  of  April,  Secretary  Seward  was 
ordered  by  the  President  to  send  a  telegram  to  Porter 
to  restore  the  Powhatan  to  Mercer  and  the  expedition  to 
Sumter.  But  the  vessel  was  not  so  restored,  and  on  the 


following  day  Mr.  Seward  writes  Judge  Campbell,  "  Faith 
as  to  Sumter  fully  kept;  wait  and  see."  I  make  no  com- 
ments on  these  proceedings,  by  which  I,  and  the  Pre- 
sident, and  others,  as  well  as  the  Rebel  commissioners, 
were  deceived.  These  letters  of  Judge  Campbell  and  the 
commissioners  were  not  disclosed  to  me  by  Mr.  Seward, 
nor  do  I  think  the  President  saw  them  when  received. 

Porter's  instructions,  recommended  by  Seward  and 
signed  by  Abraham  Lincoln,  placed  that  officer  hi  inde- 
pendent command  at  Pensacola,  where  his  senior,  Captain 
Adams,  was  hi  command  of  the  squadron,  and  the  latter 
was  to  cooperate  with  and  be  subject  to  the  request  of  his 
junior  in  the  great  object  and  purpose  of  the  force  on  that 
station.  The  strange  and  irregular  proceeding  embar- 
rassed Captain  Adams  and  became  uncomfortable  to  Lieu- 
tenant Porter  as  well  as  embarrassing  to  the  Secretary  of 
State.  Captain  Adams  could  not  receive  or  recognize  the 
Powhatan  as  a  part  of  his  squadron;  he  had  received  no 
orders  from  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy  in  relation  to  the 
vessel  or  to  Lieutenant  Porter;  and  while  he  could  not  dis- 
regard the  strange  instructions  to  which  the  Secretary  of 
State  had  persuaded  the  President  to  affix  his  signature, 
there  was  nothing  requiring  his  action  as  commander  of  the 
naval  forces.  Porter  could  not  report  or  write  to  the  Navy 
Department,  for  he  was  off  Pensacola,  when  by  naval  re- 
cord he  should  have  been  in  the  Pacific,  and  [as  he  was]  in 
command  of  the  Powhatan  by  no  order  from  the  Secretary 
of  the  Navy,  —  was  without  orders  or  instructions  from 
the  proper  Department,  —  the  officer  in  command  would 
not  receive  and  forward  his  letters.  Officers  are  required 
to  send  then*  letters  to  the  Navy  Department  through  their 
senior  officers.  The  Secretary  of  State  had  therefore  to 
correspond  with  that  branch  of  the  Navy,  and  awkwardly 
passed  over  the  letters  of  the  officer  who  was  in  command 
of  a  vessel  surreptitiously  detached  and  withdrawn  from 
her  legitimate  duties. 

I  may  here  state  that,  as  early  as  the  llth  of  March, 


I  had,  on  the  application  of  General  Scott,  who  feared  to 
trust  the  mails,  and  was  unwilling  to  send  a  messenger 
through  the  infected  region  lest  he  should  be  arrested,  de- 
tailed the  Crusader  to  carry  an  officer  with  instructions  to 
Captain  Vogdes  to  land  his  forces  and  strengthen  the  gar- 
rison at  Fort  Pickens.  When  the  vessel  was  ready  to  sail, 
General  Scott  concluded  not  to  send  his  messenger,  but 
dispatched  written  orders  to  Captain  Vogdes,  which  he 
entrusted  to  the  naval  officer  to  deliver.  But  Captain 
Adams,  the  senior  naval  officer,  would  not  recognize  the 
orders  of  General  Scott,  nor  permit  Captain  Vogdes  and 
his  command  to  land.  His  justification  was  an  armistice, 
which  had  been  entered  into  by  Secretaries  Holt  and  Toucey 
with  prominent  Rebels,  not  to  reinforce  the  garrison  at 
Fort  Pickens,  provided  the  Rebels  would  not  attack  it. 

Captain  Adams  was  not  entirely  satisfied  with  his  own 
decision.  Though  technically  he  might  be  justified  in 
adhering  to  the  armistice  or  order  of  the  Secretary  of 
the  Navy,  rather  than  obey  the  order  of  General  Scott,  the 
emergency  was  one  when  a  faithful  and  patriotic  officer 
would  have  been  justified  hi  taking  a  reasonable  respon- 
sibility. To  relieve  himself  from  embarrassment,  he  im- 
mediately dispatched  Lieutenant  Gwathmey  with  a  secret 
confidential  communication  to  me,  dated  the  1st  of  April, 
stating  the  facts  and  asking  instructions.  Lieutenant  G., 
although  a  Secessionist,  was  faithful  to  his  trust.  He  trav- 
elled night  and  day,  not  even  stopping  in  Richmond,  where 
he  belonged,  and  reached  Washington  on  the  6th  of  April. 
He  came  to  me  on  his  arrival  before  he  went  to  his  hotel, 
and  took  from  a  belt  that  was  strapped  around  his  body 
under  his  shirt,  the  letter  of  Captain  Adams,  which  he  de- 
livered into  my  hands.  A  day  or  two  after  this  affair,  he 
tendered  his  resignation,  which,  however,  was  not  accepted, 
but  he  was  dismissed  from  the  service. 

I  went  immediately  to  the  President  with  Captain 
Adams's  communication,  and  we  both  deemed  it  abso- 
lutely essential  that  a  special  messenger  should  be  forth- 


with  sent  overland  with  orders  to  immediately  land  the 
troops.  Prompt  action  was  all-important,  for  the  Rebellion 
was  rapidly  culminating,  and  the  hesitancy  of  Captain 
Adams  had  caused  a  delay  which  endangered  the  possession 
of  Santa  Rosa  Island  and  the  safety  of  Fort  Pickens.  But, 
in  the  general  demoralization  and  suspicion  which  per- 
vaded Washington,  who  was  to  be  trusted  with  this  im- 
portant mission?  It  was  then  three  o'clock  hi  the  after- 
noon, and  the  messenger  must  depart  by  the  mail  train 
which  left  that  evening.  Paymaster  Etting  was  in  Wash- 
ington, and  I  sent  for  him  to  convey  the  message.  Al- 
though not  well,  he  prepared  to  obey  orders,  but  had  my 
consent  to  make  inquiry  for  another  officer,  whose  fidelity 
and  energy  were  unquestioned,  to  perform  the  service. 
About  five  o'clock  he  reported  to  me  that  Lieut.  John 
Worden  had  just  arrived  in  Washington,  that  he  would 
vouch  for  him  as  untainted  by  treason,  and  as  possessed 
of  the  necessary  qualifications  for  the  mission.  I  directed 
that  Lieutenant  W.  should  immediately  report  to  me,  and 
in  a  brief  interview  I  informed  him  of  my  purpose  to  dis- 
patch him  on  a  secret,  responsible,  and  somewhat  danger- 
ous duty  through  the  South,  and  that  he  must  leave  hi 
about  two  hours.  He  expressed  his  readiness  to  obey  orders, 
and,  though  the  time  was  short  and  he  indifferently  pre- 
pared, he  would  be  ready  at  the  time  designated.  I  di- 
rected him  to  make  no  mention  of  his  orders  or  his  journey 
to  any  one,  not  even  to  his  wife,  but  to  call  on  me  as  soon 
as  ready  and  I  would  in  the  mean  tune  prepare  the  docu- 
ment that  was  to  be  confided  to  him.  The  fact  that  he  was 
an  officer  of  the  Navy  passing  South  to  Pensacola,  and 
yet  not  a  Secessionist  or  in  sympathy  with  them,  would 
be  likely  to  cause  him  to  be  challenged  and  perhaps  searched. 
I  therefore  wrote  a  brief  dispatch  to  Captain  Adams,  which 
I  read  to  him  when  he  called,  and  gave  it  into  his  hands 
open,  advising  that  he  should  commit  it  to  memory,  and 
then,  if  he  thought  best,  he  could  destroy  the  paper.  When 
he  saw  Captain  Adams  he  could  from  recollection  make 


a  certified  copy  to  that  officer,  stating  the  reasons  why  he 
did  not  produce  the  original.  Everything  was  successful, 
for,  though  he  was  questioned  at  one  or  two  points  and 
asked  if  he  was  carrying  a  message,  he  managed  to  escape 
detection,  and  I  believe  was  not  searched. 

He  reached  Pensacola  and  was  put  on  board  the  Brook- 
lyn on  the  12th  of  April.  That  night  the  troops  under 
command  of  Captain  Vogdes  with  [a  battalion  of]  marines 
were  landed  and  Fort  Pickens  was  reinforced.  Instead  of 
remaining  with  the  squadron  and  improving  the  first 
opportunity  to  reach  the  North  by  steamer,  Lieutenant 
Worden  preferred  to  land  as  soon  as  his  message  was 
delivered,  and  commenced  his  return,  going  to  Washington 
by  the  same  route  he  had  taken  hi  going  to  Pensacola.  It 
was  not  surprising  that  the  Rebels,  when  they  learned  next 
day  that  the  troops  had  been  landed  and  were  in  Fort 
Pickens,  connected  the  mission  of  that  officer  with  the 
movement.  Although  he  had  been  gone  some  hours  on  his 
homeward  journey,  the  facts  were  telegraphed  to  the 
Rebel  leaders  at  Montgomery,  who  had  him  arrested  and 
confined  in  the  prison  at  that  place,  where  he  remained 
several  months  until  late  in  the  fall,  when  an  exchange  was 
effected,  and  he  reached  the  North  in  season  to  take  com- 
mand of  the  ironclad  and  turreted  Monitor,  the  first  ves- 
sel of  that  class,  and  fight  the  Merrimac  in  Hampton  Roads. 
He  was  among  the  first,  if  not  the  very  first,  prisoners-of- 
war  captured  by  the  Rebels. 

The  order  to  Captain  Adams  to  land  the  troops  was  re- 
ceived by  him,  as  stated,  on  the  12th,  and  the  fort  was 
reinforced  that  night.  Lieutenant  Porter  and  the  Powhatan 
did  not  reach  Pensacola  until  the  17th,  five  days  after  Cap- 
tain Vogdes  and  his  command  with  the  marines  were  in 
the  fort,  —  a  force  sufficient  for  its  defense.  In  detaching 
the  Powhatan  from  the  Sumter  expedition,  no  important 
or  necessary  aid  was  furnished  by  her  or  by  Lieutenant 
Porter  to  Pickens.  Had  the  frigate  remained  under  Cap- 
tain Mercer,  the  attempt  to  relieve  Major  Anderson 


probably  would  not  have  succeeded,  for  the  Rebels  of 
Charleston  were  strangely  prepared  and  warned  of  the 
intended  expedition,  and  there  were  other  movements 
which  precipitated  Rebel  action. 

Soon  after  President  Lincoln  had  formed  the  resolu- 
tion to  attempt  the  relief  of  Sumter,  and  whilst  it  was  yet 
a  secret,  a  young  man  connected  with  the  telegraph  office 
in  Washington,  with  whom  I  was  acquainted,  a  native  of 
the  same  town  with  myself,  brought  to  me  successively 
two  telegrams,  conveying  to  the  Rebel  authorities  informa- 
tion of  the  purpose  and  decision  of  the  Administration. 
One  of  these  telegrams  was  from  Mr.  Harvey,  a  newspaper 
correspondent,  who  was  soon  after,  and  with  a  full  know- 
ledge of  his  having  communicated  to  the  Rebels  the  move- 
ments of  the  Government,  appointed  minister  to  Lisbon. 
I  had,  on  receiving  these  copies,  handed  them  to  the  Pre- 
sident. Mr.  Blair,  who  had  also  obtained  a  copy  of  one, 
perhaps  both,  of  these  telegrams  from  another  source,  like- 
wise informed  him  of  the  treachery.  The  subject  was  once 
or  twice  alluded  to  in  Cabinet  without  eliciting  any  action, 
and  when  the  nomination  of  Mr.  Harvey  to  the  Portuguese 
mission  was  announced,  —  a  nomination  made  without 
the  knowledge  of  any  member  of  the  Cabinet  but  the 
Secretary  of  State,  and  made  at  his  special  request,  — 
there  was  general  disapprobation,  except  by  the  President 
(who  avoided  the  expression  of  any  opinion)  and  by  Mr. 
Seward.  The  latter  defended  and  justified  the  selection, 
which  he  admitted  was  recommended  by  himself,  but  the 
President  was  silent  hi  regard  to  it. 

Two  days  preceding  the  attack  on  Sumter,  I  met  Sena- 
tor Douglas  in  front  of  the  Treasury  Building.  He  was  in 
a  carriage  with  Mrs.  Douglas,  driving  rapidly  up  the  street. 
When  he  saw  me  he  checked  his  driver,  jumped  from  the 
carriage,  and  came  to  me  on  the  sidewalk,  and  in  a  very 
earnest  and  emphatic  manner  said  the  Rebels  were  deter- 
mined on  war  and  were  about  to  make  an  assault  on  Sum- 


ter.  He  thought  immediate  and  decisive  measures  should 
be  taken;  considered  it  a  mistake  that  there  had  not  al- 
ready been  more  energetic  action;  said  the  dilatory  pro- 
ceedings of  the  Government  would  bring  on  a  terrible  civil 
war,  that  the  whole  South  was  united  and  in  earnest. 
Although  he  had  differed  with  the  Administration  on 
important  questions,  and  would  never  be  in  accord  with 
some  of  its  members  on  measures  and  principles  that 
were  fundamental,  yet  he  had  no  fellowship  with  traitors 
or  disunionists.  He  was  for  the  Union  and  would  stand 
by  the  Administration  and  all  others  in  its  defense, 
regardless  of  party. 

I  proposed  that  we  should  step  into  the  State  Depart- 
ment, near  which  we  were,  and  consult  with  Mr.  Seward. 
The  look  of  mingled  astonishment  and  incredulity  which 
came  over  him  I  can  never  forget.  "Then  you,"  said  he, 
"have  faith  in  Seward.  Have  you  made  yourself  acquainted 
with  what  has  been  going  on  here  all  winter?  Seward  has 
had  an  understanding  with  these  men.  If  he  has  influence 
with  them,  why  don't  he  use  it?" 

I  said  Seward  was  a  member  of  the  Administration,  and 
nothing  could  be  done  without  the  knowledge  of  himself 
and  associates,  that  to  meet  him  frankly  and  give  him  con- 
fidence was  probably  the  best  course  under  the  circum- 

He  said  perhaps  it  was.  He  could  now  see  no  alterna- 
tive. "Lincoln  is  honest  and  means  well.  He  will  do  well  if 
counseled  right.  You  and  I  are  old  Democrats,"  he  con- 
tinued, "and  I  have  confidence  in  you,  though  we  have 
differed  of  late.  I  was  glad  when  I  learned  you  were  to  be 
one  of  the  Cabinet,  and  have  told  Lincoln  he  could  safely 
trust  you.  Seward  has  too  much  influence  with  him." 

This  is  the  substance  of  the  conversation,  the  result  of 
which  was  that  he  consented  to  go  with  me  to  the  State 
Department  and  see  Mr.  Seward  if  still  there.  It  was  late 
in  the  afternoon.  He,  Douglas,  said  we  must  take  his 
word  for  the  information  he  gave,  for  he  could  make  no 


disclosure  of  names.  He  knew  what  he  stated  to  be  true, 
—  that  the  fire-eaters  were  going  to  fire  on  Sumter. 

He  requested  Mrs.  Douglas  to  remain  in  the  carriage. 
As  we  ascended  the  steps  of  the  old  State  Department, 
he  said  he  was  going  to  see  Seward  because  I  advised  it, 
and  because  there  was  no  other  course,  for  he  was  a  part 
of  the  Administration,  but  it  was  unfortunate  for  the  coun- 
try that  he  was  so,  because  Seward  did  not  realize  the  ca- 
lamities that  were  before  us,  and  deceived  himself  with  the 
belief  he  had  influence  at  the  South  when  he  had  none. 

Mr.  Seward  received  us  cordially,  heard  the  statement 
of  Mr.  Douglas  calmly,  took  a  pinch  of  snuff,  said  he  would 
see  the  President  on  the  subject.  He  knew  there  were  wild 
and  reckless  men  at  Charleston  and  we  should  have  dif- 
ficulty with  them,  but  he  knew  of  no  way  to  prevent  an 
assault  if  they  were  resolved  to  make  one. 

Douglas  told  me  subsequently  he  was  not  disappointed 
at  the  interview.  Seward,  he  said,  was  not  earnest,  had  no 
heart  in  this  matter,  could  not  believe  the  storm  was  be- 
yond his  ability  and  power  to  control,  but  he  would  soon 
enough  learn  that  no  mere  party  management  or  cunning 
would  answer  in  such  an  emergency  as  this.  Alluding  to 
his  hesitancy  in  going  to  Seward,  he  said  he  knew  it  was 
useless  to  make  any  appeal  to  him.  Seward  had  no  idea  of 
the  necessities  of  the  case,  and  was,  at  that  moment,  as  he, 
Douglas,  knew,  carrying  on  an  intrigue  with  the  Rebel 
leaders,  who  were  deceiving  him,  whilst  he  flattered  him- 
self that  he  was  using  and  could  control  them. 

Douglas  said  he  had  witnessed  what  had  been  going  on 
for  months  without  being  able  to  do  anything  effectively, 
for  he  found  himself  in  the  confidence  of  neither  party. 
He  had  tried  to  rally  the  Democracy,  but  the  party  was 
broken  up.  Slidell,  Cobb,  Breckenridge,  and  others  were 
determined  to  break  up  the  Union  also.  He  could  do 
nothing  with  them;  others,  like  myself,  had  taken  the 
opposite  course,  and  got  mixed  up  with  old  Whigs,  and  he 
had  as  little  influence  with  us.  Buchanan  was  feeble  and 


incompetent.  The  great  point  with  him  and  his  Cabinet 
since  the  election  had  been  to  drift  over  the  fourth  of 
March.  Seward  had  thought  that  he  could  then  take  the 
reins  and  manage  things  as  he  pleased,  had  all  along  treated 
this  mighty  gathering  tempest  as  a  mere  party  contest, 
which  he  and  Thurlow  Weed  could  dispose  of  as  easily  as 
some  of  their  political  strifes  in  New  York. 

When  he  spoke  to  me  it  was,  he  said,  with  a  vague  hope 
or  idea  that  Mr.  Lincoln  might  be  induced  to  act  independ- 
ent of  Seward.  He  had  thought  of  seeing  me  and  having 
a  confidential  conversation  for  some  time,  and  ought  to 
have  done  so,  but  it  had  been  postponed  till  the  Sumter 
news  gave  him  a  start,  and  it  was  then  too  late.  When  I 
invited  him  to  go  to  Seward,  the  man  he  wished  to  avoid, — 
for  he  considered  Seward's  mistaken  notions,  unintentional 
errors,  refined  party  management,  as  calamitous  as  the 
open  treason  of  Rhett,  or  Toombs,  or  Jefferson  Davis,  — 
my  invitation  and  remarks  awakened  him  to  the  actual 
facts, — that  Seward  was  a  part  of  the  Government,  and 
that  nothing  could  be  done  without  him.  He  had  little 
expectation  that  anything  could  be  accomplished  with 
him.  He  had  not,  Douglas  thought,  risen  to  the  occasion, 
nor  was  he  adapted  to  the  times  before  us. 

In  detaching  the  Powhatan  from  the  Sumter  expedition 
and  giving  the  command  to  Porter,  Mr.  Seward  extricated 
that  officer  from  Secession  influences,  and  committed  him 
at  once,  and  decisively,  to  the  Union  cause.  My  own  im- 
pression is  that  he  would  have  come  into  that  channel  as 
the  difficulties  progressed,  for  his  energetic,  restless,  and 
aspiring  nature  would  not  have  permitted  him  to  occupy 
a  neutral  or  passive  position,  and  I  never  have  believed  that 
when  the  trial  test  reached  him,  he  would  have  proved  re- 
creant to  the  flag,  whatever  were  his  personal  attachments 
to,  and  friendships  for,  the  Rebel  leaders.  As  a  lieutenant 
he  was  entitled  to  no  such  command  as  the  Powhatan, 
a  fact  of  which  Mr.  Seward,  who  had  little  knowledge  of 


details,  was  ignorant,  but  the  trust  flattered  and  gratified 
the  ambition  of  Porter.  Finding  himself  taken  into  the 
confidence  of  the  President  and  Secretary  of  State,  and 
perceiving  that  in  the  matter  before  them  the  Secretary 
giving  orders  was  acting  as  principal,  he  presumed  to  go 
farther,  and  was  prompted  by  his  audacity  to  present 
his  friend  Barren,  between  whom  and  himself  there  was 
a  common  sympathy,  for  a  commanding  position  in  the 
Navy  Department. 

Mr.  Seward,  who,  with  all  his  shrewdness  and  talent,  was 
sometimes  the  victim  of  his  own  vanity  and  conceit,  was 
flattered  by  Porter's  suggestion  that  he  could  give  Barren 
a  position;  it  showed  that  he  was  considered  by  Porter,  and 
he  hoped  by  others,  the  premier,  the  controlling  mind  of 
the  Administration,  and  it  was  a  wish  to  confirm  this 
impression,  rather  than  sympathy  with  any  Secession  views 
of  Barren,  which  led  him  into  the  otherwise  unwarrantable 
and  inexcusable  step  that  was  taken. 

President  Lincoln  believed  the  attempt  to  thrust  Barren 
on  the  Navy  Department  was  the  fault  of  Porter  rather 
than  Seward,  and  he  never  thereafter  reposed  full  confidence 
in  Porter,  though  not  insensible  to  his  professional  ability. 
Often  during  the  four  eventful  years  which  followed,  when 
from  time  to  time  I  availed  myself  of  Porter's  qualities 
and  gave  him  commands  and  promotion,  the  President 
expressed  his  gratification  that  I  retained  no  resentment, 
but  sacrificed  personal  wrongs  and  injustice  for  the  good 
of  the  country. 

In  about  two  weeks  from  the  time  when  I  was  instructed 
to  take  Barren  into  my  confidence,  he  deserted  the  Govern- 
ment, went  to  Richmond,  received  a  commission  in  the 
Rebel  service,  and  was  taken  prisoner  in  the  August  fol- 
lowing, when  Fort  Hatteras  was  captured  by  Rear-Ad- 
miral Stringham,  whom  he  was  to  have  displaced.  He  was 
the  first  of  the  faithless  naval  officers  who  abandoned  the 
Government  and  took  up  arms  against  it  that  was  made 
prisoner,  and,  singularly  enough,  surrendered  his  sword  to 


the  man  whom  he  was,  by  Porter's  arrangement  or  Seward's 
order,  to  have  superseded.  Whether  Porter  was  prompted 
by  any  of  his  Rebel  associates  to  intrigue  for  Barron,  or 
whether  they  concerted  with  him  to  that  end,  I  never  as- 
certained. The  facts  will  probably  never  be  known.  There 
is  no  doubt  that  Mr.  Seward  was  in  communication  with 
the  Rebel  leaders,  or  some  of  them;  not  that  he  was  im- 
plicated in,  or  a  party  to,  their  rebellious  schemes,  but  he 
tampered  with  them,  felt  confident,  as  Douglas  stated,  that 
when  he  obtained  power  he  could  shape  events  and  control 
them.  He  overrated  his  own  powers  always,  and  under- 
estimated others.  When  he  was  sworn  in  to  the  office  of 
Secretary,  he  expected  and  intended  to  occupy  the  place 
of  premier,  and  undoubtedly  supposed  he  could  direct  the 
Administration  in  every  Department.  Mr.  Lincoln  had,  he 
knew,  little  administrative  experience.  Mr.  Seward,  there- 
fore, kindly  and  as  a  matter  of  course,  assumed  that  he  was 
to  be  the  master  mind  of  the  Government.  But  whilst  he 
always  had  the  regards  and  friendly  wishes  of  Mr.  Lincoln, 
to  whom  he  made  himself  useful,  and  who  was  impressed 
with  the  belief  that  his  Secretary  of  State  had  shrewdness, 
knowledge,  political  experience,  and  capability  far  greater 
than  he  actually  possessed,  the  President  in  a  gentle  man- 
ner gradually  let  it  be  understood  that  Abraham  Lincoln 
was  chief.  The  incidents  which  I  have  detailed  —  the  de- 
tachment of  the  Powhatan,  the  irregular  command  given  to 
Porter  —  were  improper  proceedings  which  the  President 
soon  comprehended,  and  the  order  in  relation  to  Barron 
convinced  him  that  he  must  not  give  implicit  trust  to 
any  one,  but  depend  on  his  own  judgment  in  matters  of 

The  supervising  control  which  Mr.  Seward  at  the  com- 
mencement undertook  to  assume  over  all  the  Depart- 
ments except  that  of  the  Treasury,  and  the  Treasury  to 
an  extent,  was  checked,  so  far  as  the  Navy  Department 
was  concerned;  yet,  without  informing  himself  of  usage, 
or  international,  or  statute  laws,  he  frequently  involved 


the  Government  in  difficulty  by  inconsistently  surrender- 
ing national  rights.  Mr.  Cameron  sometimes  complained 
of  interference  with  the  War  Department  and  army  mat- 
ters by  the  Secretary  of  State,  and  on  one  occasion,  when 
the  latter  was  commending  Meigs,  as  he  often  did,  for  great 
ability,  Cameron  proposed  to  transfer  that  officer  to  the 
State  Department,  where  his  talents  were  most  used  and 
highest  appreciated. 

The  extraordinary  powers  and  authority  with  which 
Captain  Meigs  and  Lieutenant  Porter  were  invested  in  the 
spring  of  1861  would  have  alarmed  the  country  and  weak- 
ened the  public  confidence  in  the  administrative  capacity 
of  the  Executive  had  the  facts  been  known.  Mr.  Aspin- 
wall  and  other  gentlemen  informed  me  that  when  Cap- 
tain Meigs  applied  to  them  for  assistance  and  submitted 
the  letters  of  the  President  and  Secretary  of  State,  cloth- 
ing him  and  Porter  with  unlimited  authority  over  the  mili- 
tary and  naval  service,  —  confessedly  without  the  know- 
ledge of  the  Secretary  of  War  or  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy, 
—  they  were  alarmed  for  the  safety  and  welfare  of  the 
Government.  It  betrayed  weakness  in  the  executive  head. 
Much  had  been  said  and  was  then  uttered  by  partisans 
of  the  incompetency  of  Mr.  Lincoln  and  his  unfitness.  He 
had  not  been  tried,  and  the  period  was  portentous.  But, 
whatever  doubts  existed  in  regard  to  Mr.  Lincoln,  they 
had  been  in  a  great  measure  dispelled  when  his  Cabinet 
was  appointed.  Apprehension,  however,  revived  on  the 
arrival  of  Meigs  and  Porter  in  New  York,  and  when  their 
powers  were  made  known.  Such  as  saw  those  documents — 
and  amongst  them  was  Mr.  Aspinwall  —  were  astonished 
and  almost  in  despair.  At  the  best  it  was  misgovernment 
and  indicated  want  of  confidence,  of  unity,  of  energy,  and 
of  proper  administrative  ability  at  Washington.  They 
were  disposed  to  impute  the  strange  orders  and  carte  blanche 
to  the  sub-officers  as  a  blunder  or  mistake  of  the  President, 
who  was  taking  to  himself  departmental  duties,  and  issu- 
ing direct  to  officers  and  subordinates  commands  and 


instructions  instead  of  passing  them  through  the  legitimate 
channels;  but  the  name  of  Mr.  Seward  appeared  on  most 
of  the  papers,  showing  that  he  was  cognizant  of  and  recom- 
mended what  was  doing.  One  gentleman,  more  sagacious 
than  the  rest,  in  conversation  with  me  some  months  later, 
imputed  the  whole  to  a  contrivance  of  Mr.  Seward,  and 
the  only  unaccountable  thing  to  him  was  the  non-appear- 
ance of  Thurlow  Weed  in  the  affair. 

There  is  no  doubt  that  the  President  was  induced  to 
take  whatever  steps  he  did,  knowingly,  in  the  matters 
referred  to,  through  the  instrumentality  and  by  the  advice 
of  Mr.  Seward,  but  he  was  not  knowing  to  some  of  the 
important  matters  herein  stated,  and  as  soon  as  he  was 
made  acquainted  with  them,  he  at  once  disavowed  and 
annulled  them.  It  was  a  misfortune  of  Mr.  Seward,  and 
one  of  his  characteristics,  that  he  delighted  in  oblique  and 
indirect  movements;  he  also  prided  himself  in  his  skill  and 
management,  had  a  craving  desire  that  the  world  should 
consider  him  the  great  and  controlling  mind  of  his  party, 
of  the  Administration,  and  of  the  country.  He  was  in- 
tensely anxious  to  control  and  direct  the  War  and  Navy 
movements,  although  he  had  neither  the  knowledge  nor 
aptitude  that  was  essential  for  either. 

For  more  than  a  month  after  his  inauguration  President 
Lincoln  indulged  the  hope,  I  may  say  felt  a  strong  con- 
fidence, that  Virginia  would  not,  when  the  decisive  stand 
had  finally  to  be  taken,  secede,  but  adhere  to  the  Union. 
There  were  among  her  politicians  some  able  and  influential 
men  who  favored  the  Nullification  or  Secession  party, 
disciples  of  Calhoun,  but  it  was  notorious  that  a  great 
majority  of  the  people  were  opposed  to  all  disunion  senti- 
ments. These  last,  though  vastly  more  numerous  than 
the  fire-eaters,  were  passive  and  calm  in  their  movements, 
while  the  Secession  element  was  positive,  violent,  and 
active.  As  is  usually  the  case,  the  energetic  and  factious 
element  seized  the  reins  of  power,  while  the  more  deliberate 


were  submissive,  hesitating  and  hoping  that  extreme 
measures  might  be  avoided. 

That  there  should  be  no  cause  of  offense,  no  step  that 
would  precipitate  or  justify  secession,  the  President,  al- 
most daily,  enjoined  forbearance  from  all  unnecessary 
exercise  of  political  party  authority.  It  was,  he  believed, 
important  that  the  Administration  should  exert  its  power 
to  conciliate  the  people  and  strengthen  their  attachment 
to  the  Government.  Whether,  in  the  excited  and  disturbed 
condition  of  the  country,  when  frantic  sectional  appeals 
were  made  in  the  cause  of  treason  and  disunion,  the  policy 
pursued  was  the  best,  may  be  a  question.  Probably  a  more 
energetic  and  decisive  course  would  have  been  adopted, 
had  events  culminated  at  a  later  period;  but  the  Admin- 
istration was  just  entering  upon  its  duties,  and  was  met  at 
the  threshold  by  an  organized  and  powerful  party  oppo- 
sition, at  the  very  time  it  was  encountering  and  struggling 
with  the  Secessionists  and  before  it  was  possessed  of  and 
could  fully  exercise  its  rightful  authority. 

The  traffic  in  slaves  was  great  in  Virginia,  and  embodied 
more  capital  than  any  other  product  of  the  State.  The 
traders  who  were  engaged  in  this  nefarious  business  were 
reckless  and  unprincipled  men.  Nevertheless,  wealth  even 
in  their  hands  had  its  influence,  and,  coupled  with  daring 
and  violence,  became  irresistible.  Slaves  were  the  great 
staple  of  the  State;  their  sale  brought  annually  a  greater 
return  of  money  to  the  State  than  tobacco  or  any  other 
product,  perhaps  than  all  others;  their  bondsmen  found 
a  market  in  the  States  of  the  South,  and  nowhere  else  in 
Christendom.  It  was  natural,  and  to  be  expected,  that  all 
the  ferocious  and  brutal  instincts  of  the  slave-trader  should 
be  in  opposition  to  the  Administration,  and  to  those  States 
which  would  not  tolerate  slavery  within  their  borders.  A 
heavy  hand,  could  it  have  been  placed  on  these  wretches 
who  advocated  treason  and  urged  disunion,  thronged  Rich- 
mond, and  spent  of  their  ill-gotten  wealth  profusely  to 
promote  secession,  would  have  been  better  than  attempts  at 


conciliation.  The  times  were  revolutionary,  and  the  gentle 
and  persuasive  arguments  and  measures  of  the  Admin- 
istration were  treated  as  cowardly,  while  the  violent  and 
denunciatory  anathemas  and  avowed  hate  of  the  Yankees 
by  the  slave-traders,  captivated  the  idle,  the  vicious,  and 
adventurers,  and  bore  away  those  with  whom  they  came 
in  contact. 

Norfolk  was  the  principal  commercial  port  of  the  State, 
and  sentiment  there  gave  tone  and  opinion  to  lower  Vir- 
ginia. The  navy  yard  at  Norfolk  afforded  employment 
to  many,  and  the  government  patronage  in  party  times 
had  been  supposed  important.  Aware  of  this,  the  Pre- 
sident early  made  special  request  that  no  important  or 
extensive  changes  should  be  made  in  the  navy  yard  at 
present,  or  without  consulting  him.  I  soon  became  satisfied 
that  the  large  amount  of  public  property  there  was  in  a 
precarious  condition.  As  a  preventive,  or  matter  of  cau- 
tion, it  seemed  to  me  advisable  that  a  military  force  should 
be  placed  there  to  protect  the  yard,  and  to  serve  as  a  rally- 
ing point  for  Union  men  in  case  of  emergency.  But  Gen- 
eral Scott,  to  whom  I  applied  for  troops,  said  he  had  none 
to  spare,  that  he  had  not  sufficient  force  to  guard  the 
Capitol  or  to  garrison  Fortress  Monroe  and  Harper's 
Ferry,  which  were  endangered,  and  that  Norfolk  was 
wholly  indefensible.  When,  after  two  or  three  interviews 
with  him,  I  appealed  to  the  President,  he  not  only  con-; 
curred  with  General  Scott,  but  thought  it  would  be  inex-[ 
pedient  and  would  tend  to  irritate  and  promote  a  conflict, 
were  a  military  force  to  be  sent  to  Norfolk.  Any  extraor- 
dinary efforts  to  repair  the  ships  with  a  view  of  removing 
them  and  the  public  property  would,  in  his  opinion,  ex- 
hibit a  want  of  confidence  and  betray  apprehensions  that 
should  be  avoided. 

I  had  as  early  as  the  14th  of  March  ordered  the  Pocahon- 
tas,  one  of  the  Home  Squadron,  which  arrived  in  Hampton 
Roads,  to  proceed  to  Norfolk.  This  was  no  unusual  order, 
and  could  create  no  apprehension  or  distrust. 


The  frigate  Cumberland,  the  flagship  of  Commodore 
Pendergrast,  commanding  the  West  Indian  and  Gulf 
Squadron,  arrived  in  Hampton  Roads  on  the  23d  of  March, 
where  she  was  purposely  detained,  and  on  the  29th  of 
March  I  gave  orders  for  her  to  proceed  up  Elizabeth  River 
to  the  navy  yard  and  take  the  place  of  the  Pocahontas, 
ordered  to  join  the  Sumter  expedition. 

There  were  several  old-class  ships,  some  of  them  valu- 
able but  dismantled,  laid  up,  which  would  require  a  good 
deal  of  time  and  labor  to  be  put  in  a  condition  to  be  removed. 
The  Merrimac,  the  most  valuable  vessel  at  the  yard,  was 
wholly  dismantled,  but  the  Germantown,  the  Plymouth, 
and  the  Dolphin,  all  sailing-vessels,  could  soon  and  with 
very  little  difficulty  be  got  ready  for  removal  or  for  service. 
We  had,  however,  few  or  no  seamen  to  man  them,  nor 
could  we  procure  them  at  Norfolk,  but  were  compelled  to 
enlist  and  order  them  from  New  York  or  one  of  the  North- 
ern yards.  Notwithstanding  the  sensitive  feeling  that 
existed  on  the  part  of  the  people  of  Virginia,  as  well  as  of 
the  Government,  I  felt  that  we  might  with  propriety  order 
a  sufficient  force  there  to  man  at  least  two  of  the  smaller 
vessels  without  creating  alarm,  as  it  would  be  legitimate 
in  the  ordinary  course  of  things.  The  Plymouth  was  de- 
signated as  the  practice  ship  for  the  midshipmen,  and  the 
Germantown  was  nearly  ready  for  her  armament  and  crew. 
No  exception  could  be  taken  to  orders  to  man  them.  If  the 
seamen  reached  Norfolk,  and  an  exigency  should  arise 
rendering  it  expedient  to  move  the  Merrimac,  they  could 
be  made  available  for  that  purpose.  The  Powhatan  had 
just  reached  New  York  and  was  ordered  out  of  commis- 
sion, but  those  of  her  crew  whose  time  had  not  expired 
could  be  made  available  for  valuable  service  at  Norfolk, 
and  such  was  the  first  intention  of  the  Department,  but 
important  events  for  the  relief  of  Fort  Sumter  rendered  it 
necessary  to  detain  the  seamen  on  the  Powhatan  for  the 
Sumter  expedition,  and  to  add  to  them  the  recruits  from 
the  receiving-ship.  These  orders  took  almost  all  the  re- 


cruits  who  were  intended  for  Norfolk,  as  soon  as  two  hun- 
dred and  fifty  were  enlisted.  Orders  were  given  to  Paymas- 
ter Etting  to  proceed  to  New  York  and  charter  a  vessel  to 
take  the  men  to  Norfolk,  and  also  to  Commander  Rowan, 
but  the  orders  could  not  be  fulfilled.  The  order  for  two 
hundred  men  was  sent  to  Brooklyn  on  the  llth  of  April. 

The  fidelity  and  patriotism  of  Commodore  McCauley, 
who  was  in  command  of  the  yard,  were  questioned  by  no 
one,  and  his  reputation  as  a  good  and  faithful  officer  all 
admitted  (though  not  particularly  efficient).  I  had  not 
seen  him  for  several  years,  but  the  inquiries  which  I  made 
in  regard  to  him  were  satisfactorily  answered.  Subsequent 
events  proved  him  faithful  but  feeble  and  incompetent  for 
the  crisis.  His  energy  and  decision  had  left  him,  and,  what- 
ever skill  or  ability  he  may  have  had  in  earlier  years  in 
regular  routine  duty,  he  proved  unequal  in  almost  every 
respect  to  the  present  occasion.  He  made  no  report  or 
suggestion  to  me  of  disaffection  or  doubt  on  the  part  of  any 
officer,  and  in  answer  to  inquiries  which  I  made  of  him  as 
to  the  time  which  would  be  necessary  to  put  the  engines  or 
machinery  of  the  Merrimac  in  order,  so  that  she  could  be 
moved,  he  sent  me  word  that  it  would  require  at  least  a 
month.  On  receiving  this  answer,  I  became  apprehensive 
that  I  could  not  depend  upon  him  if  the  emergency  should 
demand  prompt  action,  and  I  at  once  directed  the  en- 
gineer-in-chief,  Mr.  Isherwood,  to  proceed,  with  whatever 
assistance  he  needed,  to  Norfolk,  and,  without  creating  a 
sensation,  but  in  a  quiet  manner,  to  put  the  machinery  in 
working  condition  with  the  least  possible  delay.  To  do 
this,  he  was  directed  to  call  to  his  assistance  whatever  force 
was  necessary,  and  to  work  without  cessation  day  and  night 
until  it  was  accomplished.  Instead  of  a  month,  the  work 
was  completed  within  less  than  four  days. 

On  the  llth  of  April,  I  issued  orders  to  Commander  Al- 
den,  then  in  Washington,  to  proceed  to  Norfolk  and  report 
to  Commodore  McCauley  to  take  charge  of  the  Merrimac 
and  deliver  her  over  to  the  commanding  officer  of  the 


Philadelphia  station.  Many  of  the  instructions  in  those 
days  were  given  orally,  for  what  became  a  matter  of  record 
was  too  often,  in  some  mysterious  way,  made  known  to  the 
insurgents.  No  more  than  was  absolutely  necessary  was 
put  upon  paper  for  any  of  the  officers  who  were  sent  to 

Engineer  Isherwood  had  the  machinery  in  working  order 
by  the  16th,  and  Commodore  McCauley  wrote  me  on 
that  day  that  the  Merrimac  would  be  ready  for  service  by 
the  following  evening,  the  17th.  Chief  Engineer  Isher- 
wood returned  and  reported  to  me  on  the  18th  that  Com- 
modore McCauley  had  defeated  the  plans  and  purposes  of 
the  Department;  that  he  would  not  permit  the  Merrimac 
to  leave;  was,  he  thought,  under  the  influence  of  liquor  and 
bad  men.  In  company  with  the  President,  I  saw  General 
Scott  again  the  following  day,  when  he  repeated  the  same 
opinions,  but  on  the  19th  [sic]  he  promised  that  General 
Delafield  or  a  good  engineer  should  be  detailed  who  would 
cause  some  defenses  to  be  thrown  up. 

My  impressions  are  that  Commander  Alden  called  and 
made  report  on  the  same  day  with  Mr.  Isherwood,  but  he 
states  it  was  on  the  19th  and  that  he  returned  to  Norfolk 
on  the  same  evening  on  the  Pawnee  under  Commodore 
Paulding.  Alden  was  timid,  but  patriotic  when  there  was 
no  danger,  for  he  was  not  endowed  with  great  moral  or 
physical  courage,  yet  believed  himself  possessed  of  both, 
and  was  no  doubt  really  anxious  to  do  something  without 
encountering  enemies  or  taking  upon  himself  much  re- 
sponsibility. At  Norfolk  all  his  heroic  drawing-room  reso- 
lution and  good  intentions  failed  him.  He  had  not  the 
audacity  nor  the  moral  courage  to  meet  his  professional 
brethren  who  had  those  qualities  and  were  determined  to 
sustain  the  Secession  cause.  A  man  of  energy  and  greater 
will  and  force,  with  the  orders  of  the  Secretary,  would 
have  inspired  and  influenced  McCauley,  whose  heart  was 
right,  and  carried  out  these  orders. 

While  in  Cabinet-meeting,  I  was  called  out  by  Com- 


mander  Alden,  who  informed  me,  with  emotion  which  he 
could  not  entirely  suppress,  that  Commodore  McCauley 
had  refused  to  let  him  have  the  Merrimac,  that  after  the 
fires  had  been  kindled  they  had  been  drawn  by  the  Com- 
modore's command,  that  the  vessel  was  at  the  wharf,  and 
that  the  deportment  and  remarks  of  some  of  the  younger 
officers  left  no  doubt  in  his  mind  that  they  had  control  of 
the  Commodore  and  of  the  yard.  The  old  man,  he  said, 
seemed  stupefied,  bewildered,  and  wholly  unable  to  act. 
Instead  of  inspiring  the  well-intentioned  but  infirm  old 
man,  Alden  had  struck  away  from  the  yard  and  had  im- 
mediately returned  to  report  to  the  Department.  I  took 
him  forthwith  to  the  President,  and  the  Cabinet,  which 
was  then  in  session,  when  he  related  what  had  occurred. 

At  the  consultation  which  took  place  as  soon  as  he  with- 
drew, I  advised  that  immediate  steps  should  be  taken  for 
the  defense  of  the  navy  yard,  stated  the  large  amount  of 
public  property  there,  in  ships,  material,  ordnance,  ma- 
chinery, tools,  and  stores  of  every  description,  the  neces- 
sity, in  a  naval  and  military  point  of  view,  of  retaining 
possession  of  the  yard,  and  the  disastrous  consequences 
to  the  Government  of  permitting  such  a  station  to  be 
wrested  from  its  possession,  or  of  abandoning  it  to  the 
insurgents.  The  President  and  Cabinet  concurred  in  these 
views,  and  when  I  informed  them  of  the  opposition  of 
General  Scott  to  sending  a  military  force  to  protect  the 
yard,  it  was  thought  advisable  that  the  President  and 
myself  should  see  him  on  the  subject. 

I  went  from  the  Executive  Mansion  to  military  head- 
quarters and  saw  General  Scott,  to  whom  I  communicated 
the  condition  of  affairs  and  the  necessity  of  a  military 
force  without  delay  at  Norfolk.  But  the  General  was  still 
decisive  and  emphatic  against  sending  troops  to  defend 
the  place,  said  it  was  an  impossibility  to  furnish  the  troops, 
or  to  defend  the  navy  yard  if  we  had  them;  that  any 
force  he  could  send  there  would  certainly  be  captured; 
the  Navy  and  marines  might,  if  on  shipboard,  escape,  but 


the  troops  could  not;  repeating  continually  it  was  enemy's 
country.  All  this  and  more  he  repeated  to  the  President 
and  myself  at  the  interview,  but  he  finally  consented  that  a 
battalion  of  Massachusetts  volunteers,  which  he  supposed 
might  be  at  Fortress  Monroe,  from  information  just  re- 
ceived, should  accompany  an  expedition  under  Commo- 
dore Paulding,  to  withdraw  the  vessels  and  as  much  of 
the  public  property  as  could  be  secured,  and  that  he  would 
send  Colonel  Delafield  —  subsequently  Captain  Wright, 
an  intelligent  officer,  instead  of  Delafield  —  with  them. 

I  had  previously,  on  the  16th,  after  hearing  from  Com- 
modore McCauley  that  a  month  was  required  to  put 
the  Merrimac  in  condition  to  be  removed,  dispatched 
Commodore  Paulding,  who  was  then  attached  to  the  De- 
partment as  detailing  officer,  to  Norfolk,  to  inquire  into 
and  inform  himself  of  the  actual  state  of  things  at  the  yard, 
the  reliability  of  officers  and  men,  and  to  satisfy  himself 
fully  in  regard  to  Commodore  McCauley.  If  he  had  any 
doubts  of  the  safety  of  the  yard  after  examination,  he  was 
to  advise  me,  and  was  to  act  for  me  in  all  particulars,  pro- 
vided danger  was  imminent,  having  plenary  powers  for  the 
purpose.  On  the  morning  of  the  18th,  Commodore  Pauld- 
ing unexpectedly  returned  and  made  a  satisfactory  verbal 
report  or  statement  concerning  Commodores  McCauley 
and  Pendergrast  and  the  condition  of  the  yard.  Some  of 
the  younger  officers,  who  belonged  in  Virginia  or  the  South, 
had  expressed  a  wish  to  be  relieved  from  duty  at  the  yard 
in  anticipation  of  difficulty  with  the  insurgents,  among 
whom  were  their  kinsmen  and  neighbors,  with  whom  they 
preferred  not  to  come  in  collision;  but  all  were,  he  said, 
patriotic,  deprecated  hostility,  and  were  governed  by 
honorable  motives.  Commodore  McCauley  he  indorsed  as 
faithful,  competent,  and  to  be  trusted.  He  was  seconded 
by  Commodore  Pendergrast,  commanding  the  Home 
Squadron,  who  had  arrived  in  Hampton  Roads  a  few 
days  previous  with  his  flagship,  the  Cumberland,  and  had 
orders  to  proceed  with  the  frigate  up  the  Elizabeth  River 


to  the  vicinity  of  the  navy  yard.  Commodore  Pendergrast 
said  he  had  consulted  freely  and  fully  with  both  those  of- 
ficers, had  made  some  suggestions  and  assented  to  others 
made  by  them,  and  was  so  well  satisfied  that  the  workmen 
were  reliable  and  that  the  public  property  was  in  good 
and  trustworthy  hands,  that  he  thought  it  unnecessary  he 
should  remain,  but  that  it  was  best  he  should  return  to 
Washington  and  make  report  in  person.  Although  this 
report  was  more  favorable  than  I  had  expected,  I  greatly 
regretted  he  did  not  remain  and  act  for  the  Department, 
and  so  informed  him.  I  also  blamed  myself  for  not  having 
given  him  explicit  written  orders  to  that  effect.1 

My  preliminary  orders  and  inquiries  were  oral  and  not 
matters  of  record;  my  first  written  orders  were  on  the  29th 
of  March;  Virginia  did  not  pass  the  ordinance  of  secession 
until  the  17th  April.  Until  then  it  was  hoped  and  believed 
by  many,  including  the  President  and  Secretary  of  State, 
that  Virginia  would  not  secede. 

It  will  be  borne  in  mind  that  Congress,  which  had  just 
adjourned,  put  forth  no  preparation  for  the  coming  crisis, 
had  made  no  extra  appropriations,  had  not  authorized  the 
enlistment  of  any  additional  seamen;  almost  all  our  naval 
force  was  abroad;  most  of  the  small  Home  Squadron  was 
in  the  Gulf  or  West  Indies,  nearly  as  remote  and  inaccess- 
ible as  the  European  Squadron;  and  the  whole  available 
force  north  of  the  Chesapeake  had  been  dispatched  to  the 

1  [Mr.  Welles  in  his  manuscript  here  cited  such  orders  and  portions  of 
the  correspondence  as  became  a  matter  of  record:  — 

"See  Order  of  March  29th  to  Pendergrast  to  proceed  with  Cumberland 
to  Norfolk. 

"Order  to  Breese  31st  of  March  for  seamen  —  also  order  of  llth  April 
for  seamen. 

'Order  of  llth  April  to  Alden. 

'Orders of  llth  April  to  McCauley  to  prepare  the  Merrimac  and  Ply- 

'Orders  of  llth  April  to  Isherwood  to  proceed  to  Norfolk. 

'Letter  16th  April  to  McCauley. 

'  McCauley's  letter  of  16th  April  to  me. 

'Order  to  Paulding  of  18th  April. 

'Isherwood's  report  18th  April."] 


relief  of  Fort  Sumter  and  secretly  and  surreptitiously, 
without  the  knowledge  of  the  Navy  Department,  sent  to 
Fort  Pickens.  Without  men,  without  funds,  without  legis- 
lative authority,  without  advice,  suggestion,  or  intimation 
of  any  kind  from  Congress,  from  the  Senators  on  the 
Naval  Committee,  who  remained  in  Washington  through 
the  month  of  March,  while  rebellion  was  gathering 
strength,  the  Secretary  was  compelled  to  take  the  whole 
responsibility  and  to  act  in  that  great  emergency.  Fore- 
most among  the  men  who  had  defied  the  South  and  treated 
with  scorn  and  derision  the  secession  theory  and  move- 
ment, was  Senator  John  P.  Hale,  Chairman  of  the  Naval 
Committee  of  the  Senate:  one  of  the  first  to  flee  from  Wash- 
ington, when  the  storm  which  had  gathered  was  about  to 
burst,  was  the  same  distinguished  Senator.  When,  how- 
ever, Congress  convened  in  special  session  in  July,  and 
Washington  was  garrisoned  and  shielded  by  a  large  army, 
this  burning  and  eloquent  patriot  returned,  and,  over- 
flowing with  courage,  was  moved  in  the  exuberance  of  his 
zeal  to  introduce  a  resolution  to  inquire  into  the  circum- 
stances attending  the  destruction  of  the  property  of  the 
United  States  at  the  navy  yard  at  Norfolk,  and  espe- 
cially if  there  was  any  default  on  the  part  of  any  officer. 
Pensacola  and  Harper's  Ferry  were  included  in  the  inquiry, 
but  the  virtuous  indignation  of  the  Chairman  of  the  Naval 
Committee  was  chiefly  exercised  and  wholly  exhausted  in 
regard  to  Norfolk.  His  wrath  was  less  against  the  Rebels 
than  somebody  else,  he  did  not  care  to  mention  whom. 
When  notified  by  Mr.  Hale  that  his  committee  was  in  ses- 
sion, that  certain  information  was  wanted  by  them,  and  I 
was  told  in  a  patronizing  way  that  any  explanation  by  way 
of  justification  of  the  Department  would  be  received,  I 
directed  that  the  whole  transactions  in  relation  to  Norfolk 
should  be  thrown  open  for  his  examination,  that,  so  far  as 
the  Department  could  furnish  them,  answers  should  be 
given  to  all  specific  inquiries,  and  that  every  facility  should 
be  extended  to  the  Committee;  but  for  myself  I  declined 


any  appearance  or  explanation.  My  time,  I  assured  the 
honorable  chairman,  was  too  much  occupied  in  attending 
to  necessary  public  duties  to  detail  narratives  or  enter 
into  explanations  that  were  personal.  It  was  my  intention 
they  should  have  all  the  facts,  and  I  wished  them  fully 
and  fairly  reported,  but  I  certainly  should  volunteer  no 

In  his  report  as  Chairman  of  the  Committee,  Mr.  Hale 
manifests  his  patriotic  fervor,  military  skill,  and  intelli- 
gence, and  all  the  candor  and  fairness  within  him.  There 
was  a  wide  difference  between  him  and  General  Scott  in 
regard  to  the  defense  of  Norfolk,  for  while  the  old  hero  said 
no  troops  could  be  had,  and  insisted  that  the  yard  could 
not  be  defended,  that  the  place  was  without  fortifications 
or  defenses  of  any  kind,  that  troops  placed  there  would 
inevitably  be  captured,  the  chairman  of  the  committee  of 
investigation,  Mr.  John  P.  Hale,  represented  otherwise, 
and  asserted  in  his  report  that  "  Cap  tain  McCauley  was 
abundantly  able  to  defend  the  yard,"  which  was  "  encom- 
passed on  two  sides  by  a  wall  ten  or  twelve  feet  high,  and 
eighteen  inches  thick,"  that  there  was  an  available  force 
of  at  least  one  hundred  and  fifty  marines  and  sailors  with 
two  howitzers  "and  the  crew  of  the  Cumberland  of  three 
hundred  and  fifty  men." 

The  report  enumerates  other  means  also,  none  of  which 
appear  to  have  convinced  General  Scott,  or  either  of 
the  three  commodores  who  were  there  with  full  powers, 
and  who  commanded  the  forces  and  were  entrusted  with 
the  defense.  There  is  this  difference  between  the  military 
and  naval  officers  on  one  side,  and  the  Senatorial  Commit- 
tee on  the  other:  the  naval  and  military  gentlemen  were 
compelled  to  take  the  responsibility  and  act  promptly 
according  to  their  best  judgment  in  the  line  of  their  profes- 
sion, and  the  performance  of  duty  to  which  they  had  been 
trained.  They  may  have  erred  in  some  respects;  it  would 
be  strange  if  they  did  not  under  the  extraordinary  circum- 
stances of  the  case.  Mr.  Hale  had  no  responsibility,  was 


embarrassed  by  no  military  or  naval  teaching,  was  beyond 
danger,  and  made  his  report,  criticizing  and  condemn- 
ing their  conduct,  twelve  months  after  the  event  took 

Mr.  Horace  Greeley,  in  his  "  American  Conflict,"  eluci- 
dates and  illuminates  the  report  of  Mr.  Hale,  which  he 
assumes  to  be  non-partisan  and  correct,  by  saying  "Capt. 
Paulding  might  have  held  his  position  a  week,  and  that 
week  would  have  brought  at  least  30,000  men  to  his  aid." 
Not  thirty  thousand  men  reached  imperiled  Washington 
hi  one  week,  in  response  to  the  call  of  the  President  by 
proclamation,  aided  by  all  the  State  authorities,  and  of- 
ficial and  individual  effort,  zeal,  and  influence;  and  such 
as  came  in  obedience  to  that  national  call  were  indifferently 
provided  with  arms,  munitions,  and  supplies,  backed 
though  they  were  by  the  Federal  and  State  governments. 
If  the  historian  is  to  be  believed,  a  larger  army  would 
have  gathered  on  an  appeal  from  the  Commodore  to  save 
the  navy  yard,  than  came  to  defend  the  National  Capital 
on  the  official  call  of  the  President.  What  thirty  thousand 
men  could  have  done,  had  they  gathered  at  Norfolk  in  a 
week,  towards  defending  a  place  in  the  enemy's  country, 
without  batteries  or  shore  defenses  of  any  kind,  without 
engineers  to  construct  them,  without  resources,  with  no 
commissariat  or  quartermaster's  supplies,  are  matters  not 
clearly  explained  in  the  "  American  Conflict."  It  is  doubted 
if  Mr.  Greeley  could  have  got  that  number  of  men  at  Nor- 
folk, to  say  nothing  of  their  equipment  and  supplies,  when 
the  President,  with  all  the  power  and  energies  of  the 
country,  gathered  no  such  number  in  that  brief  tune  at 
Washington  to  defend  the  capital  of  the  nation. 

In  closing  his  chapter  on  "the  national  disgrace  at  Nor- 
folk," in  his  "American  Conflict,"  Mr.  Greeley,  who  read- 
ily, oracularly,  and  dogmatically,  without  investigation, 
adopted  the  statements  of  the  factious,  partisan,  untruth- 
ful, unjust,  and  iniquitous  report  of  Mr.  Hale,  says: 
"Thus  ended  the  most  shameful,  cowardly,  disastrous 


performance  that  stains  the  annals  of  the  American  Navy." 
Such  is  contemporary  history. 

In  the  light  of  subsequent  events  the  performance  may 
be  condemned.  It  was  certainly  unfortunate  and  disas- 
trous. There  were  feebleness  and  incapacity  in  McCauley, 
and  treachery  and  infidelity  on  the  part  of  some,  in  fact 
most,  of  his  subordinates,  —  matters  shameful  indeed, 
but  I  am  aware  of  no  evidence  of  cowardice,  even  in  the 
pusillanimous  commander.  He  and  his  associates  were 
astounded  by  the  defection  of  Virginia,  and  overwhelmed 
with  the  magnitude  of  the  rebellion,  for  which  Mr.  Sena- 
tor Hale  had,  neither  in  Congress  nor  out  of  it,  suggested 
preparations,  and  Congress  had  made  but  feeble  or  no  pro- 
vision. Mr.  Greeley  had  in  his  organ,  the  Tribune,  said  if 
the  States  wished  to  secede,  let  them  go.  Until  the  storm 
burst,  Congress  had  not  believed  that  the  overthrow  of  the 
government  or  a  division  of  the  Union  was  intended,  nor 
could  the  members  realize  that  such  a  tornado  was  then 
upon  them.  At  the  commencement  they  would  not  be 
aggressive;  they  hesitated  to  be  the  first  to  imbrue  their 
hands  in  the  blood  of  their  countrymen.  Mr.  John  P.  Hale 
and  Mr.  Horace  Greeley  might  have  done  differently  from 
those  officers  and  saved  the  navy  yard  and  public  property 
at  Norfolk  by  tactics  of  their  own,  when  military  and  naval 
men  could  not. 

The  misfortune  was  bad  enough  when  truly  and  fairly 
stated,  but  aggravated  by  the  misrepresentations  and  ex- 
aggerations of  reckless  and  unscrupulous  men  in  Congress, 
like  Hale,  and  by  the  partisan  fictions  and  imaginary  de- 
lusions of  journalists  such  as  Greeley,  great  injustice  was 
done  to  officers  of  courage  and  undoubted  patriotism,  as  well 
as  to  the  Department  and  Administration.  It  is  easy  to 
be  seen  that  had  a  younger  and  more  vigorous  officer  than 
McCauley  been  hi  command  of  the  yard,  or  a  more  daring 
and  energetic  officer  than  Alden  sent  there,  a  different 
course  might  and  probably  would  have  been  adopted,  and 
some  of  the  vessels  and  public  property  been  saved.  But 


at  the  time  no  officer  in  the  service  had  a  more  unexcep- 
tionable record  than  McCauley.  Not  a  word,  not  a  sus- 
picion, was  breathed  of  any  want  of  ability,  courage,  or 
fidelity  in  that  officer.  Nor  was  there  any  want  of  con- 
fidence in  Paulding,  or  Pendergrast,  who  were  younger  and 
more  vigorous  men,  nor  were  the  heroic  and  gallant  juniors 
who  participated  with  them  in  that  disastrous  performance 
destitute  of  true  heroism  or  devoted  patriotism.  In  scut- 
tling the  ships,  McCauley  and  Pendergrast  committed  a 
lamentable  mistake.  They  were  deceived  without  doubt, 
and  in  that  terrible  crisis  were  not  equal  to  the  emergency. 
They  were  not  partisan  politicians,  and  could  not  believe 
that  so  wanton,  causeless,  and  extensive  a  conspiracy  ex- 
isted; and  when  the  crisis  came,  they  were  confounded  and 
not  prepared  to  act.  When  they  did  act,  it  was  in  bewil- 
derment and  error.  Whether  different  officers  would  have 
had  better  success  cannot  be  known.  They  might  have 
rescued  the  Merrimac  and  some  other  vessels,  though  that 
is  uncertain,  for  the  Rebels  had  been  long  preparing  for  the 
event,  and  were  the  positive  element;  the  Union  men  were 
passive.  The  Rebels  were  resolute  and  acted  on  the  offens- 
ive; our  officers  were  incredulous  and  on  the  defensive. 
They  were  anxious  to  strike  and  fight,  while  the  others 
merely  deprecated  and  repelled. 

When  Greeley  says  that  one  week  would  have  brought 
thirty  thousand  men  to  Norfolk  to  aid  Commodore  Pauld- 
ing, he  betrays  weakness  and  his  unfitness  as  a  historian. 
General  Scott  knew  better.  He  would  have  sent  no  thirty 
thousand  troops  there,  had  the  men  been  in  Washington. 
What  could  thirty  thousand  undisciplined,  unofficered  men 
have  accomplished,  but  their  own  destruction?  Like  the 
heedless  and  senseless  cry  from  the  same  vicious  source, 
"On  to  Richmond,"  the  assertion  that  Norfolk  could  have 
rallied  to  its  defense  thirty  thousand  men  is  the  essence  of 
partisan  folly. 

Senator  Hale,  who  hurried  to  introduce  a  resolution  to 
investigate  and  report  in  July,  1861,  but  delayed  and  lin- 


gered  in  communicating  his  invidious  and  unjust  document 
until  April,  1862,  had  an  object  in  his  movement.  He 
desired  to  embarrass  and  assail  the  Navy  Department,  of 
which  he  was  the  Senatorial  organ,  and  to  which  he  should 
have  given  his  earnest,  honest,  and  zealous  support.  No- 
thing would  have  afforded  him  higher  gratification  than 
to  have  found  the  Secretary,  who  had  mildly  dispensed 
with  his  proffered  agency,  remiss  and  delinquent,  and  it 
would  have  delighted  him  had  I  subjected  myself  to  his 
criticism  and  rebuke,  or  attempted  to  defend  or  explain 
to  him  and  his  committee  the  proceedings  and  errors  of 
naval  officers.  I  neither  sought  nor  shunned  him.  The 
records  of  the  Department  were  thrown  open  to  him,  and 
they  were  a  defense  and  justification.  He  slurs  over  the 
orders,  oral  and  written,  in  March  and  early  April,  preced- 
ing the  occurrence,  and  says  the  first  steps  taken  for  the 
defense  of  Norfolk  were  on  the  10th  of  April,  thirty-seven 
days  after  the  inauguration.  Were  that  the  fact,  it  would 
not  have  been,  under  the  circumstances,  when  Congress 
had  been  delinquent,  tardy  action.  But  I  had  on  the  29th 
of  March  changed  the  destination  of  the  frigate  Cumber- 
land, which,  by  special  direction  of  the  President,  on  re- 
quest of  the  Secretary  of  State,  was  about  proceeding  to 
the  Gulf,  and  ordered  her  from  Hampton  Roads  to  Norfolk 
to  check  disorderly  proceedings,  should  any  appear.  In 
repeated  verbal  applications  to  General  Scott  for  a  mili- 
tary force  in  the  months  of  March  and  April,  as  a  precau- 
tionary measure,  I  met  a  refusal,  on  the  ground  of  military 
necessity  and  inability  to  comply.  He  had  not,  he  said, 
troops  to  defend  Harper's  Ferry,  a  military  station,  which 
was  actually  captured  by  the  Rebels  simultaneously  with 
the  destruction  of  Norfolk.  As  there  was  not  a  soldier  to 
defend  the  place  and  we  had  no  sailors  to  man  the  vessels, 
I  sent,  on  the  31st  of  March,  to  New  York,  general  and 
special  orders  for  two  hundred  and  fifty  men  to  be  dis- 
patched to  Norfolk,  and,  if  there  were  not  that  number  on 
hand,  to  enlist  and  forward  them  as  soon  as  possible.  All 


the  steamers,  and  almost  the  whole  limited  naval  force  in 
all  the  Atlantic  ports,  had  been  sent  to  the  relief  of  Forts 
Sumter  and  Pickens. 

These  facts  were  well  known  to  Senator  Hale,  Chairman 
of  the  Naval  Committee  of  the  Senate  and  of  the  special 
committee  to  investigate  the  destruction  of  property  at 
Norfolk,  —  many  of  them,  and  others,  were  not  matters 
of  record,  —  but  he  was  careful  to  suppress  and  make  no 
allusion  to  them;  some  that  were  mentioned  were  greatly 
perverted  and  distorted.  The  report  was  his  own.  Sena- 
tor Grimes,  who  was  associated  with  him  on  the  commit- 
tee, took  especial  pains  on  more  than  one  occasion  to  as- 
sure me  that  he  had  no  hand  in  drawing  it  up,  that  he  never 
gave  it  his  approval,  and  I  think  he  said  he  never  read  it 
until  after  it  was  presented  to  the  Senate  and  published. 
I  should  have  been  better  pleased  had  he  made  this  state- 
ment and  disclaimer  publicly  and  in  open  Senate.  But  I 
would  not  ask  it. 

I  knew  I  had  done  my  duty  faithfully,  honestly,  and  as 
well  as  I  knew  how.  I  knew  that  the  President,  to  whom 
I  was  immediately  accountable,  approved  of  my  course, 
and  was  fully  satisfied  with  it.  Congress,  under  all  the  mis- 
representations and  intrigues  of  the  malcontents,  while  re- 
gretting in  common  with  the  Administration  and  the  whole 
country  the  loss  of  the  navy  yard  and  property,  were 
convinced  that  the  Department  acquitted  itself  faithfully 
and  well. 

I  was  introduced  to  Mr.  Stanton  by  President  Lincoln 
at  the  Executive  Mansion  in  January,  1862.  It  was  at  the 
first  Cabinet-meeting  which  he  attended  after  receiving 
the  appointment  of  Secretary  of  War.  I  had  not  previously 
met  him,  although  I  had  then  been  ten  months  in  Mr.  Lin- 
coln's Cabinet.  The  period  was  trying;  true  and  patriotic 
friends  had  come  forward  to  encourage  us,  but  Mr.  Stan- 
ton,  who  was  a  resident  of  Washington,  avoided  the  Presi- 
dent and  most  of  his  Cabinet.  The  times  were  such  as  to 


interrupt  social  intercourse  in  the  District  between  Union- 
ists and  Secessionists,  and  the  lines  between  them  were 
marked.  Old  associations  were  broken  up,  and  it  was  dif- 
ficult to  form  new  ones,  even  when  persons  had  leisure, 
which  members  of  the  Administration  had  not.  A  major- 
ity of  the  resident  population,  and  particularly  of  those 
who  formed  the  resident  elite  of  society,  were  Secessionists, 
or  in  sympathy  with  Secessionists.  A  feeling  of  bitterness 
pervaded  the  whole  community,  and  the  members  of  the 
Court  Circle,  which  had  been  in  the  fashionable  ascendant 
during  the  administrations  of  Pierce  and  Buchanan,  did 
not  conceal  their  dislike,  detestation,  and  hate  of  the  Black 
Republicans,  intensified  among  the  masses  in  the  District. 
Mr.  Stanton  had  not  been  counted  as  a  Republican,  al- 
though there  was  an  impression  he  had,  as  a  member  of 
Mr.  Buchanan's  Cabinet,  approved  the  policy  of  that  ad- 
ministration hi  the  winter  of  1861,  and  acted  with  Dix  and 
Holt.  This  impression  did  not  obtain  with  Mr.  Black1 
and  the  intimate  friends  and  supporters  of  Buchanan. 

Although  not  fond  of  the  gayeties  and  parties  of  Wash- 
ington, he  could  at  times  make  himself  companionable 
and  entertaining;  but  from  the  day  he  left  Mr.  Buchanan's 
Cabinet  until  he  entered  that  of  Mr.  Lincoln,  he  mingled 
little  in  society,  and  none  with  the  men  in  authority.  It 
was  represented  that  he  eschewed  the  new  administra- 
tion, ridiculed  the  President,  and  freely  expressed  his 
opposition  to  the  measures  adopted  and  course  pursued 
by  the  Government.  The  Secessionists  distrusted  him,  and 
neither  of  the  parties  confided  in  him  in  the  early  days  of 
the  War.  The  Administration  did  not  consider  him  one 
of  its  supporters,  though  he  was  on  friendly  terms  with 
Seward.  He  had  the  reputation  of  being  an  Anti-Secession 
Democrat,  who  nevertheless  wished  to  preserve  his  rela- 
tionship with  the  Democratic  Party,  and  as  having  no 
fellowship  with  Republicans. 

1  Jeremiah  S.  Black,  first  Attorney-General,  then  Secretary  of  State,  In 
Buchanan's  Cabinet. 


When  the  appointment  of  District  Attorney  for  Wash- 
ington was  under  consideration  in  the  spring  of  1861,  Mr. 
Stanton  and  Mr.  Carrington  were  the  rival  candidates. 
Some  diversity  of  opinion  was  entertained  by  the  members 
of  the  Cabinet  in  regard  to  them.  Mr.  Seward  earnestly 
pressed  Mr.  Stanton,  vouched  for  his  loyal  sentiments,  and 
claimed  that  he  had  in  a  confidential  way  rendered  great 
service  to  the  Union  cause  while  in  Mr.  Buchanan's  Cabi- 
net. Mr.  Bates,  the  Attorney-General,  desired  the  appoint- 
ment of  Mr.  Carrington,  who  was,  I  believe,  not  only  an 
intimate  friend,  but  kinsman.  Himself  a  man  of  courteous 
manners,  Mr.  Bates  could  not,  he  thought,  have  the  unre- 
served freedom  with  or  repose  the  same  confidence  in  Mr. 
Stanton  that  he  could  in  Mr.  Carrington,  and  the  times 
were  such  that  there  should  be  implicit  confidence  between 
the  Attorney-General  and  the  District  Attorney  in  the 
discharge  of  their  frequently  delicate  and  always  highly 
responsible  duties. 

The  subject  was  several  times  before  the  Cabinet,  but 
as  I  knew  neither  of  the  gentlemen  personally,  I  expressed 
no  opinion,  for  I  had  none  in  regard  to  either.  Mr.  Chase 
seconded  the  views  of  Mr.  Seward  for  Stanton,  but  no 
other  one  interested  himself  in  the  case,  or  seemed  disposed 
to  interfere  in  the  question.  At  length  the  President  de- 
clared the  subject  must  be  disposed  of,  and  wished  each 
one  present  to  communicate  whatever  knowledge  he  pos- 
sessed of  either.  He  appealed  particularly  to  Mr.  Blair, 
who  resided  in  Washington,  was  a  member  of  the  bar,  and 
knew  both  the  gentlemen  well. 

Mr.  Blair  said  that  he  had  not  for  that  reason  wished  to 
say  much,  but  thus  called  upon  he  should  speak  the  truth. 
In  point  of  ability,  he  said,  Mr.  Stanton  was  undoubtedly 
the  superior  of  Mr.  Carrington.  He  doubted,  however, 
Stanton's  integrity,  and  stated  a  damaging  fact  which  was 
within  his  own  personal  knowledge,  but  which  it  is  not 
necessary  here  to  repeat.  The  statement  astonished  the 
President  and  disconcerted  both  Seward  and  Chase,  each 


of  whom  questioned  whether  there  might  not  be  some  mis- 
take in  this  matter,  but  Blair  said  there  could  be  none,  and 
farther  that  he  (Stanton)  was  a  prote'ge'  of  Black,  Buch- 
anan's Secretary  of  State,  and  in  feeling  with  him.  The 
President  remarked  he  thought  it  judicious  to  conciliate 
and  draw  in  as  much  of  the  Democratic  element  as  pos- 
sible, and  he  was  willing  to  try  Stanton,  though  personally 
he  had  no  special  reason  to  regard  him  favorably;  but  the 
office  came  within  the  province  of  the  Attorney-General, 
and  he  would  turn  the  question  over  to  him.  The  Attor- 
ney-General thanked  the  President,  and  said  he  would  on 
returning  to  his  office  send  over  the  appointment  of  Mr. 

From  current  rumors  I  was  not  very  favorably  impressed 
in  regard  to  Mr.  Stanton.  His  remarks  on  the  personal 
appearance  of  the  President  were  coarse,  and  his  freely 
expressed  judgment  on  public  measures  unjust.  He  may 
have  felt  chagrined  at  the  preference  of  Carrington. 

In  the  fall  and  winter  of  1861,  when  murmurs  began  to 
be  heard  against  General  McClellan,  it  was  said,  and  I 
suppose  correctly,  that  Stanton  was  his  friend  and  adviser. 
Until  appointed  Secretary  of  War,  there  was  no  intimacy 
between  him  and  the  members  of  the  Administration, 
with  the  exception  of  Mr.  Seward.  I  have  reason  to  know 
that  he  was  engaged  with  discontented  and  mischievous 
persons  in  petty  intrigues  to  impair  confidence  in  the 

When  it  was  determined  that  Mr.  Cameron  should  re- 
tire from  the  office  of  Secretary  of  War,  —  not  wholly  for 
the  reason  that  was  given  out,  but  for  certain  loose  matters 
of  contracts,  and  because  he  had  not  the  grasp,  power, 
energy,  comprehension,  and  important  qualities  essential 
to  the  administration  of  the  War  Department  of  that 
period,  to  say  nothing  of  his  affiliation  with  Chase,  —  it  was 
a  surprise,  not  only  to  the  country  but  to  every  member 
of  the  Administration  but  the  Secretary  of  State,  that 
Stanton  was  selected.  He  was  doubtless  the  choice  of 


Mr.  Seward,  who  influenced  the  President  and  secured  the 

Seward  and  Stanton  had  been  brought  into  fellowship 
in  the  winter  of  1861,  when  the  latter  was  a  member  of 
Buchanan's  Cabinet,  and  confided  to  the  former  the  opera- 
tions and  purposes  of  the  Administration.  It  was  this  com- 
munion between  the  two,  who  had  been  of  opposing  politics 
and  parties,  —  one  at  the  time  a  member  of  the  outgoing, 
the  other  of  the  incoming  Executive  Council,  —  which  led 
to  that  political  and  personal  intimacy  which  eventuated 
in  the  induction  of  Stanton  to  the  War  Department.  Mr. 
Seward  always  looked  upon  Stanton  as  his  protege",  and 
Stanton,  who,  with  all  his  frankness,  real  and  assumed,  had, 
towards  his  superiors  in  position  or  intellect,  some  of  the 
weaker  qualities  of  a  courtier,  was  studious  to  continue  the 
inpression  that  he  was  dependent  upon  and  a  follower  of 
the  Secretary  of  State.  It  gratified  Mr.  Seward,  who  felt 
his  own  consequence  when  a  member  of  Buchanan's  Cabi- 
net sought  the  opportunity  and  gave  him  his  confidence, 
and  gave  Stanton  an  influence  and  hold  upon  his  acknow- 
ledged leader  that  remained  during  the  whole  of  the  lat- 
ter's  official  career.  .  .  . 

Others  claimed  and  have  been  given  some  portion  of  the 
credit  of  Stanton's  appointment,  but  it  belonged  exclus- 
ively to  Mr.  Seward,  and  this  Mr.  Stanton  well  knew.  It 
has  been  stated  that  Mr.  Cameron  selected  his  successor, 
and,  to  soften  his  exit  from  a  position  that  he  was  reluctant 
to  leave,  the  change  was  permitted  to  assume  that  shape; 
but  Mr.  Seward  was  the  engineer  and  manager,  and  he  it 
was  who  selected  Edwin  M.  Stanton  to  be  Secretary  of  War. 
There  was  reluctance  on  the  part  of  the  President  to  re- 
move Mr.  Cameron,  and  only  a  conviction  of  its  absolute 
necessity  and  the  unauthorized  assumption  of  executive 
power  in  his  Annual  Report  would  have  led  the  President 
to  take  the  step. 

From  the  4th  of  March,  1861,  to  the  day  he  was  selected, 
a  period  of  darkness  and  struggle  for  national  existence, 


when  the  Rebels  had  the  Government  by  the  throat,  and 
true  friends  were  wanted,  no  word  of  encouragement,  no 
outspoken  support  of  the  Administration,  was  heard,  from 
Mr.  Stanton.  He  may  in  private  interviews  with  Mr.  Sew- 
ard,  or  in  incidental  conversations  with  Mr.  Chase,  have 
modified  his  expressions,  but  the  Administration  did  not 
know  him  as  an  open,  fearless,  outspoken  friend.  It  has 
been  said  that  all  the  members  of  the  Cabinet  but  Mr. 
Blair  heartily  concurred  in  the  appointment.  No  member 
of  the  Cabinet  was  aware  of  his  selection  until  after  it  was 
determined  upon,  except  Mr.  Seward,  and  the  machinery 
of  having  Mr.  Cameron  name  his  successor  was  an  after 
arrangement.  Then  Mr.  Chase  was  called  in  and  consulted 
on  a  predetermined  question,  but  without  a  full  knowledge 
of  all  the  facts,  and  no  other  member  was  advised  in  regard 
to  it. 

Mr.  Chase  was  peculiarly  sensitive  in  matters  where  Mr. 
Seward  was  operating,  and,  to  preserve  harmony,  he  was 
led  to  believe  that  he  was  early  consulted  and  one  of  the 
original  prune  movers  in  effecting  the  change.  He  had, 
however,  known  little  of  the  retirement  of  Cameron,  who 
had  at  the  beginning  been  attached  to  the  State  rather 
than  the  Treasury  Department,  but  latterly  Cameron 
leaned  to  Chase,  who  sought  the  association.  Mr.  Blair's 
opinion  of  Stanton  was  well  understood,  and  to  have  con- 
sulted him  when  it  was  known  he  could  not,  with  the  facts 
in  his  possession,  give  the  selection  his  approval,  would 
have  been  trifling;  and  the  other  members  of  the  Cabinet, 
having  little  knowledge  of  and  no  intimacy  with  Stanton, 
could  furnish  nothing  to  influence  or  guide  the  President. 
He,  therefore,  deemed  it  best,  after  yielding  to  Seward's 
urgent  representations,  to  act  without  consulting  a  major- 
ity of  the  Cabinet,  who,  he  knew,  could  give  him  no  light 
on  the  subject.  The  course  adopted  soothed  Mr.  Blair, 
gratified  Mr.  Chase,  and,  the  scheme  being  one  of  Mr. 
Seward's  contrivance,  he  could  not  be  otherwise  than 


Mr.  Black  says  that  Stanton  went  into  Buchanan's  Cab- 
inet under  his  auspices,  and  no  one  has  ever  questioned  it. 
He  further  asserts  that  Mr.  Stanton  "said,  many  times, 
that  he  was  there  only  that  I  [Black]  might  have  two  voices 
instead  of  one,"  that  "he  would  resign  if  I  did."  The 
same  professions  and  the  same  expressions  were  made  by 
the  same  individual  to  Mr.  Seward  when  he  entered  the 
Lincoln  Cabinet,  and  subsequently,  as  I  heard  Mr.  Seward 
say;  and  I  doubt  not  with  equal  sincerity  to  each,  though 
Black  and  Seward  were  entirely  antagonistic  in  their 
political  views  and  principles. 

When  introduced  to  Mr.  Stanton,  I  met  him  frankly, 
friendly,  and  sincerely,  as  an  associate  and  colleague  with 
whom  I  was  to  hold  intimate  personal  and  official  relations 
in  a  responsible  position  and  in  a  trying  period.  There 
was,  however,  no  immediate  cordiality  between  us,  but 
there  was  formal  courtesy.  I  was  at  that  time  furiously 
attacked  by  many  newspapers  and  active  partisans,  as 
well  as  by  disappointed  speculators  and  contractors,  and 
Mr.  Stanton  may  have  received  unfavorable  impressions 
from  them.  I  knew  that  he  had  been  hi  consultation  with, 
and  given  improper  and  hostile  advice  to,  some  of  the  dis- 
affected. He  was  not,  however,  aware  that  I  was  possessed 
of  that  information,  and  I  am  certain  it  did  not  influence 
my  action  or  deportment  towards  him. 

The  New  Orleans  expedition,  which  was  far  under  way 
when  Stanton  was  appointed,  but  all  knowledge  of  which 
had  been  studiously  withheld  from  the  War  Department 
and  all  others,  first  brought  us  together.  A  force  had  been 
gathered  in  the  Gulf,  ostensibly  to  attack  Mobile  or  Gal- 
veston,  but  really  destined  for  the  Mississippi.  The  latter 
fact  had  not  been  communicated  to  the  War  Department, 
because  secrets  could  not  then  be  kept  but  inevitably 
leaked  out,  contractors  became  importunate,  and  the 
Rebels  often  were  forewarned.  Shortly  after  Mr.  Stanton's 
appointment,  Mr.  Fox,  the  Assistant  Secretary  of  the  Navy, 
inadvertently  and  incautiously  made  known  to  General 


Butler  and  to  Mr.  Stanton  the  great  object  which  had 
occupied  the  attention  of  the  Navy  Department  for  several 
months.  Mr.  Stanton  seized  hold  of  the  information  with 
avidity,  and  gave  a  hearty  support  to  the  movement — the 
more  acceptable  because  General  McClellan,  who  had 
known  our  object  and  was  by  express  direction  of  President 
Lincoln  to  cooperate  with  the  Navy,  appeared  indifferent 
and  had  little  confidence  in  our  success.  Mr.  Stanton  also 
united  with  us  in  the  necessity  of  driving  the  Rebels  from 
the  right  banks  of  the  Potomac,  taking  possession  of  their 
batteries,  and  opening  the  river  to  uninterrupted  naviga- 
tion, a  work  in  which  General  McClellan  had  frequently 
disappointed  us.  The  expectations  and  hopes  that  some- 
thing effective  might  be  done  in  opening  the  navigation  of 
that  important  avenue  to  Washington  had  been  so  delusive 
that  we  united  in  requesting  President  Lincoln  to  issue  his 
celebrated  order  of  the  27th  of  January  for  a  forward  move- 
ment, which  was  ordered  to  take  place  on  the  22d  of  Feb- 
ruary. Such  an  order  had  been  suggested,  before  Mr. 
Stanton's  appointment,  by  the  Navy  Department,  which 
had  become  wearied  with  the  delays  and  tardy  action  of 
the  General-in-Chief. 

These  and  other  matters  had  brought  the  War  and  Navy 
Departments  into  harmonious  action,  but  with  no  cordial 
intimacy  between  the  Secretaries.  Indeed,  no  member  of 
the  Cabinet  but  Mr.  Seward  enjoyed  intimate  relations 
with  the  new  Secretary  of  War,  although  Mr.  Chase  paid 
him  assiduous  attention,  and  was  in  return  treated  with 
due  respect  and  courtesy.  To  Mr.  Chase  he  may  have  been 
more  communicative  than  to  others,  because  the  former 
was  almost  daily  at  the  War  Department,  while  the  rest 
of  us  seldom  went  there  save  on  business,  and  were  less 

When  intelligence  reached  Washington  on  Sunday  morn- 
ing, the  9th  of  March,  that  the  Merrimac  had  come  down 
from  Norfolk  and  attacked  and  destroyed  the  Cumberland 
and  Congress,  I  called  at  once  on  the  President,  who  had  sent 


for  me.  Several  members  of  the  Cabinet  soon  gathered. 
Stanton  was  already  there,  and  there  was  general  excite- 
ment and  alarm.  Although  my  Department  and  the  branch 
of  the  Government  entrusted  to  me  were  most  interested 
and  most  responsible,  the  President  ever  after  gave  me  the 
credit  of  being,  on  that  occasion,  the  most  calm  and  self- 
possessed  of  any  member  of  the  Government.  The  Pre- 
sident himself  was  so  excited  that  he  could  not  deliberate 
or  be  satisfied  with  the  opinions  of  non-professional  men, 
but  ordered  his  carriage  and  drove  to  the  navy  yard  to 
see  and  consult  with  Admiral  Dahlgren  and  other  naval 
officers,  who  might  be  there.  Dahlgren,  always  attentive 
and  much  of  a  courtier,  had,  to  a  great  extent,  the  Pre- 
sident's regard  and  confidence;  but  in  this  instance  Dahl- 
gren, who  knew  not  of  the  preparation  or  what  had  been 
the  purposes  of  the  Department,  could  give  the  President 
no  advice  or  opinion,  but  referred  him  to  me.  The  inabil- 
ity of  Dahlgren  to  advise  seemed  to  increase  the  panic. 
General  Meigs,  who  was  of  much  the  same  temperament 
with  Dahlgren,  was  also  sent  for  by  the  President,  Stan- 
ton,  or  Seward.  The  latter  had  great  confidence  in  Meigs 
on  all  occasions,  and  deferred  to  him  more  than  to  his 
superior,  in  all  matters  of  a  military  character. 

Dahlgren  and  Meigs  were  both  intelligent  officers  and  in 
their  specialties  among  the  first  of  their  respective  profes- 
sions, but  neither  of  them  was  endowed  with  the  fighting 
qualities  of  Farragut  or  Sheridan,  and  in  that  time  of  gen- 
eral alarm,  without  information  or  facts,  they  were  not  the 
men  to  allay  panic  or  tranquillize  the  government  officials. 
They  were  prudent,  cautious  men,  careful  to  avoid  danger, 
and  provide  the  means  to  escape  from  it. 

But  the  most  frightened  man  on  that  gloomy  day,  the 
most  so  I  think  of  any  during  the  Rebellion,  was  the  Sec- 
retary of  War.  He  was  at  times  almost  frantic,  and  as 
he  walked  the  room  with  his  eyes  fixed  on  me,  I  saw  well 
the  estimation  in  which  he  held  me  with  my  unmoved  and 
unexcited  manner  and  conversation. 


The  Merrimac,  he  said,  would  destroy  every  vessel  in  the 
service,  could  lay  every  city  on  the  coast  under  contribu- 
tion, could  take  Fortress  Monroe;  McClellan's  mistaken 
purpose  to  advance  by  the  Peninsula  must  be  abandoned, 
and  Burnside  would  inevitably  be  captured.  Likely  the 
first  movement  of  the  Merrimac  would  be  to  come  up 
the  Potomac  and  disperse  Congress,  destroy  the  Capitol 
arid  public  buildings;  or  she  might  go  to  New  York  and 
Boston  and  destroy  those  cities,  or  levy  from  them  con- 
tributions sufficient  to  carry  on  the  War.  He  asked  what 
vessel  or  means  we  had  to  resist  or  prevent  her  from  doing 
whatever  she  pleased. 

I  stated  our  vessels  were  not  as  powerful  or  in  numbers 
as  extensive  as  I  wished.  It  was  certain,  however,  the  Mer- 
rimac could  not  come  to  Washington  and  go  to  New  York 
at  the  same  time.  I  had  no  apprehension  of  her  visiting 
either,  and  wished  she  were  then  in  the  Potomac,  for  if  so 
we  could  take  efficient  measures  to  dispose  of  her.  That 
Burnside  and  the  force  in  the  Sounds  were  safe  from 
her,  because  her  draft  of  water  was  such  she  could  not 
approach  them.  That  the  Monitor  was  in  Hampton 
Roads,  and  I  had  confidence  in  her  power  to  resist,  and, 
I  hoped,  to  overcome,  the  Merrimac.  She  should  have  been 
there  sooner  to  have  destroyed  the  Merrimac,  but  the 
contractors  had  disappointed  us. 

Mr.  Seward,  who  had  been  desponding,  contrary  to  his 
usual  temperament  and  custom,  rendered  more  timid  by 
the  opinion  and  alarm  of  Stanton,  said  my  remark  in  rela- 
tion to  the  draft  of  water  of  the  Merrimac  gave  him  the 
first  moment's  relief  he  had  experienced. 

Stanton  made  some  sneering  inquiry  about  this  new 
vessel  the  Monitor,  of  which  he  admitted  he  knew^fittle 
or  nothing.  I  described  her,  and  [said]  that  it  had  been  our 
intention,  had  she  been  completed  within  contract  time, 
to  have  sent  her  up  to  Norfolk  to  destroy  the  Merrimac 
before  she  came  out  of  the  dry  dock.  Stanton  asked  about 
her  armament,  and  when  I  mentioned  she  had  two  guns, 


his  mingled  look  of  incredulity  and  contempt  cannot  be 
described;  and  the  tone  of  his  voice,  as  he  asked  if  my 
reliance  was  on  that  craft  with  her  two  guns,  is  equally 
indescribable.  Others  mingled  in  the  conversation  with 
anxiety  and  concern,  but  on  the  part  of  Stanton  there  was 
censure,  bitterness,  and  a  breaking-out  of  pent-up  male- 
volence that  I  could  not  misunderstand.  Others,  alarmed 
by  the  destruction  which  had  taken  place  and  dreading 
further  disaster,  had  their  fears  increased  by  his  harsh 
manner;  but,  though  unsupported  and  unassisted,  I  was 
not  appalled  or  affected  by  his  terror  and  bluster.  I  more 
correctly  read  and  understood  his  character  in  that  crisis 
than  he  mine.  It  was  the  first,  and,  save  a  repetition  on 
the  following  day,  the  only,  occasion  when  he  attempted  to 
exercise  towards  me  that  rude  and  offensive  insolence  for 
which  he  became  notorious  in  the  discharge  of  his  official 

That  day  and  its  incidents  were  among  the  most  un- 
pleasant and  uncomfortable  of  my  life.  The  events  were 
momentous  and  portentous  to  the  nation,  the  responsibil- 
ity and  the  consequence  of  the  disaster  were  heavier  on  me 
than  on  any  other  individual;  there  was  no  one  to  encour- 
age and  sustain  me.  Admiral  Smith,  always  self-possessed 
and  intelligent,  who  would  have  stood  by  me,  was  over- 
whelmed with  the  tidings,  for  his  son  was  on  the  Congress, 
and,  as  his  father  predicted  when  tidings  reached  him  of 
the  fate  of  that  vessel,  had  fallen  a  victim.  My  Assistant, 
Fox,  was  absent  at  Hampton  Roads  in  anticipation  of  the 
arrival  of  the  Monitor,  whither  he  had  gone  before  these 
occurrences  to  meet  her.  Dahlgren  and  Meigs,  by  nature 
and  training  cautious,  not  to  say  timid,  who  had  been 
called  in,  were  powerless,  and  in  full  sympathy  with 
Stanton  in  all  his  fears  and  predictions. 

In  all  that  painful  time  my  composure  was  not  disturbed, 
so  that  I  did  not  perhaps  as  fully  realize  and  comprehend 
the  whole  impending  calamity  as  others,  and  yet  to  me 
there  was  throughout  the  whole  day  something  inexpress- 


ibly  ludicrous  in  the  wild,  frantic  talk,  action,  and  rage  of 
Stanton  as  he  ran  from  room  to  room,  sat  down  and  jumped 
up  after  writing  a  few  words,  swung  his  arms,  scolded,  and 
raved.  He  could  not  fail  to  see  and  feel  my  opinion  of  him 
and  his  bluster, — that  I  was  calm  and  unmoved  by  his  rant, 
spoke  deliberately,  and  was  not  excited  by  his  violence. 

The  President,  though  as  uncomfortable  as  any  of  us, 
and  having  his  alarm  increased  by  the  fears  and  scary 
apprehensions  of  Stanton,  manifested  much  sympathy  and 
consideration  for  me.  My  composure  and  the  suggestions 
and  views  I  presented  were  evidently  a  relief  to  him,  but 
Stanton's  wailings  and  woeful  predictions  disturbed  him. 
Both  he  and  Stanton  went  repeatedly  to  the  window  and 
looked  down  the  Potomac — the  view  being  uninterrupted 
for  miles — to  see  if  the  Merrimac  was  not  coming  to  Wash- 
ington. It  was  asked  what  we  could  do  if  she  were  now  in 
sight.  I  told  the  President  she  could  not,  if  in  the  river, 
with  her  heavy  armor,  cross  the  Kettle  Bottom  Shoals. 
This  was  a  relief.  Dahlgren  was  consulted.  He  thought 
it  doubtful  if  she  could  reach  Washington,  if  she  entered 
the  river. 

Stanton  asked  what  we  could  do  for  the  defense  and  pro- 
tection of  New  York  and  other  cities.  I  knew  of  nothing. 
Our  information  of  the  Merrimac  —  for  we  had  had  every 
few  days  report  of  her  condition  —  was  that  she  could 
not,  with  her  heavy  and  ill-adjusted  armor,  penetrate  the 
river  nor  venture  outside,  and  was  to  be  used  in  Hampton 
Roads  and  the  Chesapeake.  I  stated  these  facts,  and  they 
with  other  matters  had  a  good  effect  upon  the  President. 
But  Stanton  in  his  terror  telegraphed  to  the  governors 
of  the  Northern  States  and  the  mayors  of  some  of  the 
cities,  warning  them  of  the  danger,  and  advising,  as  I  was 
told,  that  rafts  of  timber  and  other  obstructions  should  be 
placed  at  the  mouths  of  the  harbors. 

These  occurrences  took  place  at  different  interviews 
which  we  had  through  the  day  and  evening,  for  it  was  one 
of  the  many  exciting  Sundays  which  we  had  during  the 


Civil  War.  I  received  that  evening  a  telegram  from  Dahl- 
gren  at  the  navy  yard,  stating  he  had  secured  a  large 
number  of  boats  and  had  a  full  force  loading  them  with 
stone  and  gravel,  and  asking  if  he  was  acting  in  conform- 
ity with  my  wishes.  I  answered  no,  and  that  I  had  given 
no  orders  to  sanction  his  proceedings.  On  the  following 
morning  we  met  at  the  President's,  and  Stanton,  with 
affected  calmness  but  his  voice  trembling  with  emotion, 
inquired  if  I  had  given  orders  to  prevent  the  boats  which 
he  had  provided  from  being  prepared  and  loaded.  I  replied 
that  I  had  given  no  orders  to  prepare  and  load  any  boats, 
nor  did  I  intend  to;  that  I  had  received  a  singular  note 
from  Dahlgren  to  which  I  had  given  this  reply:  that  he 
had  no  authority  from  me  for  such  work.  Stanton  said  he 
had  given  the  order  to  Meigs  and  Dahlgren,  and  had  done 
it  to  protect  Washington  and  with  the  approval  of  the 
President,  to  whom  he  turned.  The  President  confirmed 
his  statement,  or  remarked  that  Mr.  Stanton  had  thought 
it  imperative  that  something  should  immediately  be  done 
for  our  security;  that  those  officers,  Meigs  and  Dahlgren, 
one  or  both,  were  present,  and  he  thought  no  harm  would 
come  of  it,  if  it  did  no  good.  The  purpose  was  to  load  fifty 
or  sixty  canal-boats  and  other  craft  with  stone  and  sink 
them  at  Kettle  Bottom  Shoals,  or  some  other  place  in  the 

I  stated  that  I  was  very  sorry  to  hear  it,  that  for  five 
or  six  months  we  had  labored  with  General  McClellan 
and  the  War  Department  to  keep  this  important  avenue 
open  to  unrestricted  navigation,  and  that,  the  Rebels 
having  left,  we  ourselves  were  now  to  shut  ourselves  off 
by  these  obstructions.  As  the  President  had  authorized 
the  proceeding,  I  had  nothing  to  say  except  to  express  my 
dissent  the  moment  Admiral  Dahlgren  was  told  he  might 
go  forward  with  the  work  he  had  commenced  under  the 
War  Department,  and  at  its  expense.  Mr.  Stanton  said 
the  War  Department  would  bear  both  the  expense  and  the 


The  passages  were  sharp  and  pungent,  and  they  were 
the  last  of  that  description  which  he  ever  used  towards  me. 
The  occasion,  the  termination,  and  subsequent  events  ap- 
peared to  have  satisfied  him  that  he  had  in  some  respects 
mistaken  my  true  character.  No  member  of  the  Cabinet 
did  he  thenceforward  treat  with  more  courtesy  and  con- 
sideration, and  the  roughness  and  something  worse  which 
he  manifested  towards  some  of  our  colleagues  he  never 
extended  to  me. 

The  result  was  he  procured  a  fleet  of  some  sixty  canal- 
boats,  which  were  laden,  but  Mr.  Lincoln  had  forbidden, 
after  our  interview,  that  they  should  be  sunk  in  the  chan- 
nel until  it  was  known  the  Merrimac  was  approaching. 
Some  weeks  later,  when  the  President,  with  Stanton  and 
some  others,  was  going  down  the  river  in  a  steamer,  the 
long  line  of  boats  on  the  Maryland  side  near  the  Kettle 
Bottom  Shoals  attracted  attention,  and  some  one  inquired 
concerning  them.  "Oh,"  said  the  President,  "that  is  Stan- 
ton's  navy.  That  is  the  fleet  concerning  which  he  and  Mr. 
Welles  became  so  excited  in  my  room.  Welles  was  incensed 
and  opposed  the  scheme,  and  it  has  proved  that  Neptune 
was  right.  Stanton's  navy  is  as  useless  as  the  paps  of  a 
man  to  a  sucking  child.  There  may  be  some  show  to  amuse 
the  child,  but  they  are  good  for  nothing  for  service." 

I  have  narrated,  at  some  length,  what  took  place  on 
an  occasion  of  great  interest  to  the  country,  and  which 
brought  out  in  strong  light  the  traits  of  Mr.  Stanton  in 
a  crisis,  when  he  thought  he  had  me  at  disadvantage  and 
could  exercise  towards  me  his  imperious  nature.  He  saw 
that  even  under  the  excitement  and  alarm  I  treated  his 
bluster  with  indifference,  that  the  impression  which  each 
made  upon  the  President  was  by  no  means  to  his  advan- 
tage; and  I  have  supposed  was  admonished  to  that  effect 
by  the  President  himself. 

Mr.  Stanton  was  fond  of  power  and  of  its  exercise.  It 
was  more  precious  to  him  than  pecuniary  gain  to  dominate 
over  his  fellow  man.  He  took  pleasure  in  being  ungracious 


and  rough  towards  those  who  were  under  his  control,  and 
when  he  thought  his  bearish  manner  would  terrify  or 
humiliate  those  who  were  subject  to  him.  To  his  superiors 
or  those  who  were  his  equals  in  position,  and  who  neither 
heeded  nor  cared  for  his  violence,  he  was  complacent, 
sometimes  obsequious.  From  long  association  and  close 
observation  I  am  convinced  he  had  but  little  moral  courage 
nor  much  self-reliance  when  in  trouble.  It  never  struck  me 
that  he  was  mercenary  or  that  he  made  use  of  his  position 
to  add  to  his  private  fortune,  but  he  was  reckless  and  re- 
gardless of  public  expenditure,  and  the  war  expenses  were 
greater  by  hundreds  of  millions  than  was  necessary,  or  than 
they  would  have  been  had  the  Department  been  in  other 

Of  his  zeal,  devotion,  and  great  labor  in  his  office  there 
can  be  no  question  by  those  who  were  at  all  familiar  with 
him  as  Secretary,  although  there  are  differences  as  to  the 
wisdom  of  many  of  his  measures  and  the  value  of  his  serv- 
ices. He  was  vigilant,  often  efficient,  and  his  friend  and 
patron  Mr.  Seward  styled  him  the  "Carnot  of  the  War," 
"Stanton  the  Divine."  But  this  was  mere  fulsome  adula- 
tion from  an  old  politician.  With  the  resources  of  a  nation 
in  men  and  money  at  his  command,  and  each  used  without 
stint  or  scruple,  he  might  well  be  efficient  and  powerful, 
and  no  one  better  knew  this  than  Stanton  himself.  He  was 
an  adept  in  intrigue  and  knew  how  to  meet  and  move  the 
leading  spirits  in  Congress,  and  for  that  matter  always  had 
a  little  Congress  of  his  own.  No  one  courted  the  members 
with  more  assiduous  attention,  or,  in  an  adroit  way,  flat- 
tered and  pandered  to  them  with  more  success.  He  did 
not,  like  Mr.  Seward,  to  whom  he  was  indebted  for  his 
greatness,  entertain  and  feed  them,  yet  Se ward's  parties 
were  made  subservient  to  Stanton  and  his  views,  and  no 
one  contributed  more  to  it  than  Seward  himself.  The  Sec- 
retary of  State  supposed,  as  did  his  predecessor  Black,  that 
Stanton  was  an  appendage  to  him  in  the  Administration, 
and  they  each,  though  diametrically  opposed  in  their  prin- 


ciples  and  views  of  government,  had  a  common  interest  in 
all  that  took  place. 

If  an  expenditure  of  the  public  money  exceeding  that 
of  any  minister  in  all  history,  either  of  our  own  or  of 
any  other  country,  makes  one  a  great  war  minister,  then 
Stanton  may  lay  claim  to  greatness.  A  willing  Congress, 
lavish  of  public  money,  readily  granted  all  that  he  asked, 
and  he  was  willing  to  ask  all  they  would  give.  For  a 
tune  the  President  was  alarmed  at  his  headlong  career,  but, 
finding  that  Stanton  was  sustained  and  glorified  in  his 
extravagance,  he  interposed  no  obstacles  to  the  military 
measures  and  movements  of  the  War  Department. 

When  Mr.  Stanton  came  into  the  War  Department,  for 
several  months  he  assumed  that  the  Navy  was  secondary 
and  subject  to  the  control  and  direction  of  the  military 
branch  of  the  Government.  These  pretensions,  which  had 
agitated  each  branch  of  the  service,  I  never  recognized, 
but  stated  that  we  were  equal  and  would  be  ready  at  all 
times  to  cooperate  with  the  armies  in  any  demonstration, 
but  it  must  not  be  under  orders.  If  a  movement  originated 
in  Washington,  I  claimed,  if  the  Navy  was  to  participate, 
I  must  be  cognizant  of  it ;  if  an  expedition  was  undertaken 
by  any  general  who  needed  the  aid  of  the  Navy,  the 
admiral  or  senior  naval  officer  on  the  station  must  be 
consulted  and  cooperation  asked.  Stanton  claimed  that, 
instead  of  consulting  and  asking,  the  military  could  order 
naval  assistance,  and  that  it  was  the  duty  of  the  Secretary 
of  the  Navy  and  of  naval  officers  to  render  it.  President 
Lincoln  would  not,  however,  lend  himself  to  this  view  of 
the  subject. 


The  President  broaches  the  Subject  of  Emancipation  —  Navy  Department 
Worries  —  Commodore  Wilkes  —  Disappointed  Officers  —  Seward's 
Assumption  of  Authority  —  How  Lincoln  chose  his  Cabinet  —  The 
Army's  Failure  to  cooperate  —  The  Military  Theory  of  Frontiers  — 
Promotion  of  W.  D.  Porter  —  Proposed  Line  of  Gunboats  on  the  Ohio 
—  The  Cabal  against  McClellan  —  Stanton  on  McClellan  —  The  Need 
of  Better  Generals. 

ON  Sunday,  the  13th  of  July,  1862,  President  Lincoln  in- 
vited me  to  accompany  him  in  his  carriage  to  the  funeral 
of  an  infant  child  of  Mr.  Stanton.  Secretary  Seward  and 
Mrs.  Frederick  Seward  were  also  in  the  carriage.  Mr. 
Stanton  occupied  at  that  time  for  a  summer  residence  the 
house  of  a  naval  officer,  I  think  Hazard,  some  two  or  three 
miles  west,  or  northwest,  of  Georgetown.  It  was  on  this 
occasion  and  on  this  ride  that  he  first  mentioned  to  Mr. 
Seward  and  myself  the  subject  of  emancipating  the  slaves 
by  proclamation  in  case  the  Rebels  did  not  cease  to  persist 
in  their  war  on  the  Government  and  the  Union,  of  which  he 
saw  no  evidence.  He  dwelt  earnestly  on  the  gravity,  im- 
portance, and  delicacy  of  the  movement,  said  he  had  given 
it  much  thought  and  had  about  come  to  the  conclusion 
that  it  was  a  military  necessity  absolutely  essential  for  the 
salvation  of  the  Union,  that  we  must  free  the  slaves  or  be 
ourselves  subdued,  etc.,  etc. 

This  was,  he  said,  the  first  occasion  when  he  had  men- 
tioned the  subject  to  any  one,  and  wished  us  to  frankly 
state  how  the  proposition  struck  us.  Mr.  Seward  said  the 
subject  involved  consequences  so  vast  and  momentous 
that  he  should  wish  to  bestow  on  it  mature  reflection  be- 
fore giving  a  decisive  answer,  but  his  present  opinion  in- 
clined to  the  measure  as  justifiable,  and  perhaps  he  might 
say  expedient  and  necessary.  These  were  also  my  views. 
Two  or  three  times  on  that  ride  the  subject,  which  was  of 


course  an  absorbing  one  for  each  and  all,  was  adverted  to, 
and  before  separating  the  President  desired  us  to  give  the 
question  special  and  deliberate  attention,  for  he  was  earnest 
in  the  conviction  that  something  must  be  done.  It  was  a 
new  departure  for  the  President,  for  until  this  time,  in  all 
our  previous  interviews,  whenever  the  question  of  eman- 
cipation or  the  mitigation  of  slavery  had  been  in  any  way 
alluded  to,  he  had  been  prompt  and  emphatic  in  denounc- 
ing any  interference  by  the  General  Government  with  the 
subject.  This  was,  I  think,  the  sentiment  of  every  mem- 
ber of  the  Cabinet,  all  of  whom,  including  the  President, 
considered  it  a  local,  domestic  question  appertaining  to 
the  States  respectively,  who  had  never  parted  with  their 
authority  over  it.  But  the  reverses  before  Richmond,  and 
the  formidable  power  and  dimensions  of  the  insurrection, 
which  extended  through  all  the  Slave  States,  and  had  com- 
bined most  of  them  in  a  confederacy  to  destroy  the  Union, 
impelled  the  Administration  to  adopt  extraordinary  meas- 
ures to  preserve  the  national  existence.  The  slaves,  if  not 
armed  and  disciplined,  were  in  the  service  of  those  who 
were,  not  only  as  field  laborers  and  producers,  but  thou- 
sands of  them  were  in  attendance  upon  the  armies  in  the 
field,  employed  as  waiters  and  teamsters,  and  the  fortifica- 
tions and  intrenchments  were  constructed  by  them. 

August  10,  1862,  Sunday.  The  last  two  days  have  been 
excessively  warm.  Thermometer  on  the  north  porch  at 
100  on  each  day.  A  slight  breeze  from  the  west  makes  this 
day  somewhat  more  comfortable.  News  unimportant  from 
the  army,  and  but  little  from  the  Navy.  Shall  have  some- 
thing exciting  within  a  few  days.  Sensation  items  are  the 
favorite  ones  of  the  press.  Alarming  predictions  delight 
their  readers.  Am  sorry  that  better  progress  is  not  made 
in  the  war  upon  the  Rebels.  Our  squadrons  are  paralyzed 
everywhere  by  the  inactive  and  dilatory  movements  of 
the  army.  Vicksburg  should  have  been  taken  by  the  first 
of  June,  but  no  adequate  cooperating  military  force  was 

72  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [AUG.  10 

furnished,  and  as  a  consequence  our  largest  squadron  in 
the  Gulf  and  our  flotilla  in  the  Mississippi  have  been  de- 
tained and  injured.  The  most  disreputable  naval  affair 
of  the  War  was  the  descent  of  the  steam  ram  Arkansas 
through  both  squadrons  till  she  hauled  in  under  the  bat- 
teries of  Vicksburg,  and  there  the  two  flag  officers  aban- 
doned the  place  and  the  ironclad  ram,  Farragut  and  his 
force  going  down  to  New  Orleans,  and  Davis  proceeding 
with  his  flotilla  up  the  river.  I  have  written  them  both, 
briefly  but  expressively,  on  the  subject  of  the  ram  Arkan- 
sas. I  do  not  blame  them  in  regard  to  Vicksburg,  though 
had  Farragut  obeyed  his  original  orders  and  gone  up  the 
river  at  once  after  the  capture  of  New  Orleans,  I  think 
things  might  have  been  different.  Butler  would  not,  I  pre- 
sume, give  sufficient  support  from  the  army,  for  he  has 
proved  prompt  as  well  as  fearless. 

We  have  sensation  articles  in  yesterday's  New  York 
papers  that  the  steamer  Fingal  at  Savannah  has  been  clad 
with  iron  and  threatens  our  army  and  vessels.  Have  no 
word  from  Admiral  Du  Pont,  who  is  watchful  but  slow  to 
express  apprehension.  Am  inclined  to  believe  there  is 
truth  in  the  rumor  that  the  boat  has  been  clad  with  armor, 
but  have  my  doubts  if  there  is  any  immediate  intention  to 
attempt  to  pass  outside.  She  is  probably  designed  for  river 
defense  of  the  city  against  our  gunboats;  but  may,  if  there 
is  opportunity,  assume  the  offensive.  In  the  mean  time  the 
sensationalists  will  get  up  exciting  alarms  and  terrify 
the  public  into  distrust  and  denunciation  of  the  Navy 

We  have  similar  sensations  every  few  days  in  regard  to 
Merrimac  No.  2,  an  armored  boat  at  Richmond.  As  yet 
she  has  made  no  attempt  to  pass  below  the  obstructions, 
though  two  or  three  times  a  week  we  are  assured  they  are 
in  sight,  —  "  Smoke  from  half  a  dozen  steam-stacks  vis- 
ible." Wilkes  writes  he  is  fully  prepared  for  her  and  her 
associates  at  any  tune,  and  Rodgers l  writes  to  the  same 
1  Captain,  afterwards  Rear-Admiral,  John  Rodgers. 


effect.  But  in  a  day  or  two  some  changes  will  take  place 
that  may  affect  operations  on  James  River. 

Have  had  to  write  Wilkes  pretty  decisively.  He  is  very 
exacting  towards  others,  but  is  not  himself  as  obedient  as 
he  should  be.  Interposes  his  own  authority  to  interrupt 
the  execution  of  the  orders  of  the  Department.  Wrote  him 
that  this  was  not  permissible,  that  I  expected  his  command 
to  obey  him,  and  it  was  no  less  imperative  that  he  should 
obey  the  orders  of  the  Department.  He  wrote  for  permis- 
sion to  dismiss  from  service  a  class  of  officers  if  they  did  not 
suit  him,  and  as  he  thought  them  inefficient.  I  told  him 
the  suggestion  could  not  be  entertained,  that  the  Depart- 
ment must  retain  the  administrative  control  of  the  Navy. 
I  have  not  heard  from  him  in  reply,  or  explanation.  It  is 
pretty  evident  that  he  will  be  likely  to  cause  trouble  to 
the  Department.  He  has  abilities  but  not  good  judgment 
in  all  respects.  Will  be  likely  to  rashly  assume  authority, 
and  do  things  that  may  involve  himself  and  the  country 
in  difficulty,  and  hence  I  was  glad  that  not  I  but  the  Pre- 
sident and  Secretary  of  State  suggested  him  for  that  com- 
mand. It  is  the  first  tune  that  either  has  proposed  a  candi- 
date for  a  command,  since  taking  Stringham  from  the  office 
of  detail  in  1861  to  go  to  Pensacola.  Seward's  intrigue.  It 
was  almost  a  necessity  that  something  should  be  done  for 
Wilkes.  His  act,  in  taking  Mason  and  Slidell  from  the 
Trent,  had  given  him  eclat, — it  was  popular  with  the  coun- 
try, was  considered  right  by  the  people,  even  if  rash  and 
irregular;  but  when  and  how  to  dispose  of  Wilkes  was  an 
embarrassment  to  me,  until  the  command  of  the  James 
River  Flotilla  was  suggested.  He  was,  however,  unwilling 
to  report  to  Goldsborough,  and  to  have  done  so  would  have 
caused  delay.  But  giving  him  an  independent  command 
caused  Goldsborough  to  take  offense,  and  he  asked  to 
resign  the  command  of  the  squadron.  To  this  I  had  no 
objection,  for  he  was  proving  himself  inefficient,  —  had 
done  nothing  effective  since  the  frigates  were  sunk  by  the 
Merrimac,  nor  of  himself  much  before. 

74  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [AUG.  10 

The  State  Department  is  in  constant  trepidation,  fear- 
ing our  naval  officers  do  not  know  their  duties,  or  that  they 
will  transcend  them.  Both  points  are  marked  weaknesses 
in  the  management  of  our  foreign  affairs.  We  are  insulted, 
wronged,  and  badly  treated  by  the  British  authorities, 
especially  at  Nassau,  and  I  have  called  the  attention  of  the 
Secretary  of  State  repeatedly  to  the  facts,  but  he  fears  to 
meet  them.  After  degrading  ourselves,  we  shall  be  com- 
pelled to  meet  them.  I  am  for  no  rash  means,  but  I  am 
clearly  and  decidedly  for  maintaining  our  rights.  Almost  all 
the  aid  which  the  Rebels  have  received  in  arms,  munitions, 
and  articles  contraband  have  gone  to  them  through  the 
professedly  neutral  British  port  of  Nassau.  From  them 
the  Rebels  have  derived  constant  encouragement  and  sup- 
port, from  the  commencement  of  hostilities.  Our  officers 
and  people  are  treated  with  superciliousness  and  contempt 
by  the  authorities  and  inhabitants,  and  scarcely  a  favor 
or  courtesy  is  extended  to  them  while  they  are  showered 
upon  the  Rebels.  It  is  there  that  vessels  are  prepared  to 
run  the  blockade  and  violate  our  laws,  by  the  connivance 
and  with  the  knowledge  of  the  Colonial,  and,  I  apprehend, 
the  parent,  government. 

In  reorganizing  the  Department  there  are  some  difficul- 
ties. I  am  assailed  for  continuing  Lenthall  as  Naval  Con- 
structor at  the  head  of  the  bureau.  He  has  not  much  plia- 
bility or  affability,  but,  though  attacked  and  denounced  as 
corrupt  and  dishonest,  I  have  never  detected  any  obliquity 
or  wrong  in  him.  His  sternness  and  uprightness  disap- 
pointed the  jobbers  and  the  corrupt,  and  his  unaffected 
manner  has  offended  others.  There  is  an  intrigue  to  pre- 
vent his  confirmation,  in  which  very  great  rogues  and 
some  honest  and  good  men  are  strangely  mixed  up,  the 
last  being  the  dupes,  almost  the  willing  victims,  of  the 

Admiral  Foote  reported  for  duty  on  Thursday,  but  his 
rooms  were  not  prepared,  and  I  advised  him,  as  he  was  yet 
lame  and  on  crutches,  to  delay  active  duty  for  a  month  or 


so.  It  is  some  forty  years  since  we  were  school-boys  to- 
gether in  the  quiet  town  of  Cheshire,  and  it  has  been  a 
pleasant  opportunity  to  me  to  bring  out  the  qualities  of 
my  early  friend.  He  left  yesterday  for  a  few  weeks. 

Mr.  Faxon,  Chief  Clerk,  is  absent,  and  I  am  somewhat 
embarrassed  in  relation  to  the  true  disposition  of  the  cler- 
ical force.  It  seems  not  to  have  occurred  to  Admiral  Foote 
that  he  could  not  appoint  whom  he  pleased  in  his  bureau, 
regardless  of  the  claims  and  capabilities  of  older  and  more 
experienced  clerks  on  less  pay.  I  told  him  I  wished  him  to 
have  the  selection  of  his  chief  or  at  least  one  confidential 
clerk,  but  that  I  could  not  displace  old  and  worthy  em- 
ployees. This  he  said  he  did  not  wish,  though  he  was,  I 
think,  a  little  disappointed. 

Davis  continues  in  command  of  the  flotilla  on  the  Missis- 
sippi. Had  he  captured  the  Arkansas,  I  would  have  had 
him  come  on  immediately  and  take  charge  of  the  Bureau 
of  Navigation. 

In  reorganizing  the  Navy  under  the  late  act,  there  were 
nine  admirals  to  be  appointed  on  the  retired  list.  The 
names  of  nine  were  presented,  but  the  Senate  failed  to  con- 
firm or  act  upon  them.  After  the  adjournment  of  Congress, 
commissions  were  sent  them  under  executive  appoint- 
ment. Of  course  the  men  superseded  were  dissatisfied. 
Aulick  was  the  first  who  called,  complaining  that  injust- 
ice was  done,  and  desiring  to  know  wherein  his  record 
was  defective  and  why  he  had  been  set  aside.  I  told  him 
that  had  it  been  the  intention  of  Congress  that  the  nine 
senior  officers  should  be  the  admirals,  the  act  would  doubt- 
less have  so  stated;  that  as  regarded  himself,  while,  per- 
sonally, our  relations  had  been  pleasant  if  not  intimate, 
he  had  not  made  himself  known  or  felt  by  the  Depart- 
ment or  the  Government  in  the  hour  of  peril;  that  he  had, 
just  as  the  Rebellion  commenced,  applied  for  six  months' 
leave  to  visit  Europe,  on  account  of  alleged  illness  of  his 
daughter;  that  he  left  about  the  time  of  the  assault  on 
Sumter;  that  he  remained  abroad  until  notified  that  his 

76  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [AUG.  10 

leave  would  not  be  extended,  and  never  had  made  a  sug- 
gestion for  the  country,  or  expressed  any  sympathy  for 
the  cause.  Under  these  circumstances  I  had  felt  justified 
in  advising  the  President  to  omit  his  name.  He  said  he 
had  supposed  it  was  other  influences  than  mine  which  had 
done  him  this  injustice,  that  we  had  been  long  and  well 
acquainted.  I  told  him  I  shunned  no  responsibility  in  the 
case,  and  yet  it  was  due  to  candor  to  say  that  I  never  had 
heard  a  word  in  his  behalf  from  any  one. 

Commodore  Mervine  writes  me  of  his  disappointment, 
feels  hurt  and  slighted.  By  the  advice  of  Paulding,  chiefly, 
I  gave  the  command  of  the  Gulf  Squadron  to  Mervine  in 
the  spring  of  1861 ;  but  he  proved  an  utter  failure.  He  is 
not  wanting  in  patriotism,  but  in  executive  and  admin- 
istrative ability;  is  quite  as  great  on  little  things  as  on 
great  ones.  He  was  long  in  getting  out  to  his  station,  and 
accomplished  nothing  after  he  got  there.  When  I  detached 
him  and  appointed  McKean,  he  was  indignant  and  ap- 
plied for  a  court  of  inquiry;  but  I  replied  that  we  had  not 
the  time  nor  men  to  spare,  that  I  had  called  him  to  pro- 
mote the  public  interest,  and  recalled  him  for  the  same 
purpose.  He  is  a  man  of  correct  deportment  and  habits, 
and  in  ordinary  times  would  float  along  the  stream  with 
others,  but  such  periods  as  these  bring  out  the  stronger 
points  of  an  officer,  if  he  has  them.  I  had  no  personal,  or 
political,  or  general,  feeling  against  him,  but  as  there  were 
other  officers  of  mark  and  merit  superior  to  him,  they 
were  selected.  Yet  I  felt  there  could  not  be  otherwise  than 
a  sense  of  slight  that  must  be  felt  by  himself  and  friends, 
which  I  could  not  but  regret.  Yet  any  person  with  whom 
I  consulted  commended  the  course  I  pursued  in  regard  to 

Commodore  Samuel  Breese  was  a  more  marked  case 
than  Mervine's,  but  of  much  the  same  character.  Nothing 
good,  nothing  bad,  in  him  as  an  officer.  A  gentleman  of 
some  scholarly  pretensions,  some  literary  acquirements, 
but  not  of  much  vigor  of  mind.  Paulding  was  his  junior, 


and  the  slight,  as  he  conceived  it,  almost  broke  poor 
Breese's  heart.  He  came  immediately  to  Washington, 
accompanied  by  his  wife,  a  pleasant  woman,  and  called 
on  me,  sad  and  heartsore,  his  pride  wounded,  his  vanity 
humiliated  to  the  dust.  For  three  nights  he  assured  me  he 
had  not  closed  his  eyes;  morning  and  evening  the  flag  of 
Paulding  was  always  before  him.  He  said  Read  would 
not  live  long  and  implored  that  he  might  have  the  place. 

Charles  Stewart,  first  on  the  list  and  the  oldest  officer 
in  the  service,  wrote,  requesting  the  permission  of  the 
President  to  decline  the  appointment.  It  is  a  singular 
letter,  and  required  a  singular  answer,  which  I  sent  him, 
leaving  the  subject  in  his  hands. 

The  Advisory  Board,  which  had  to  pass  on  subordinate 
active  appointments,  have  completed  their  labors  the  past 
week.  I  am  not  altogether  satisfied  with  their  action,  and 
perhaps  should  not  be  with  any  board,  when  so  much  was 
to  be  done,  and  so  many  men  to  pass  under  revision.  The 
omission  of  Self  ridge  and  Porter  (W.  D.)  were  perhaps 
the  most  marked  cases,  and  the  promotion  of  Fleming 
and  Poor  the  most  objectionable. 

In  the  action  of  this  board  I  have  taken  no  part,  but 
scrupulously  abstained  from  any  conversation  with  its 
members,  directly  or  indirectly.  I  did  say  to  Assistant 
Secretary  Fox  that  I  regretted  the  action  in  the  case  of 
the  elder  Selfridge  and  Walke,  and  I  think  he  must  have 
intimated  these  views  in  regard  to  W.,  for  the  action  of 
the  board  was  subsequently  reversed.  But  I  know  not 
how  this  may  have  been. 

Had  a  letter  last  evening  from  Lieutenant  Budd,  stating 
that  he  presented  me  with  a  chair  rumored  to  have  be- 
longed to  General  Washington,  which  was  captured  on  the 
Steamer  Memphis,  and  asking  me  to  accept  it.  Admiral 
Paulding  had  written  me  there  was  such  a  chair,  which  he 
had  carried  to  his  house,  and  asking  what  should  be  done 
with  it.  The  chair  was  private  property  and  sent  by  a 
lady  to  some  one  abroad,  for  friendly  feeling  to  the  Rebels. 

78  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [AUG.  10 

I  sent  word  to  Admiral  P.  that  the  captors  could  donate 
it  or  it  might  be  sold  with  the  other  parts  of  the  cargo.  It 
is,  I  apprehend,  of  little  intrinsic  value.  If  it  really  be- 
longed to  Washington,  it  seemed  to  me  impolitic  to  sell  it 
at  auction  as  a  Rebel  capture;  if  not  Washington's,  there 
should  be  no  humbug.  My  impressions  were  that  it  might 
be  given  to  Admiral  P.  or  to  the  Commandant's  House 
at  the  navy  yard,  and  I  am  inclined  to  think  I  will  let  it 
take  the  latter  course,  at  least  for  the  present. 

Governor  Buckingham  was  here  last  week,  and  among 
other  matters  had  in  view  the  selection  of  Collectors  and 
Assessors  for  our  State.  There  was  great  competition. 
The  State  ticket  was  headed  by  Howard,  and  the  Congress 
ticket  headed  by  Goodman.  While  personally  friendly  to 
all,  my  convictions  were  for  the  State  ticket,  which  was 
moreover  much  the  ablest.  The  Secretary  of  the  Treasury 
gave  it  the  preference  but  made  three  alterations. 

I  met  Senator  Dixon  the  next  day  at  the  Executive  Man- 
sion, he  having  come  on  to  Washington  with  express  refer- 
ence to  these  appointments.  He  has  written  me  several 
letters  indicating  much  caution,  but  I  saw  at  once  that  he 
was  strongly  committed  and  exceedingly  disappointed.  He 
promised  to  see  me  again,  but  left  that  P.M.  to  get  counter 

Intelligence  reaches  us  this  evening  that  the  Rebel  iron- 
clad ram  Arkansas  has  been  destroyed.  We  have  also  news 
of  a  fight  yesterday  on  the  Rapidan  by  forces  under  Gen- 
eral Pope,  the  Rebels  commanded  by  Stonewall  Jackson. 

Was  told  confidentially  to-day  that  a  treaty  had  been 
brought  about  between  Thurlow  Weed  and  Bennett  of 
the  Herald,  after  a  bitterness  of  twenty  years.  A  letter 
was  read  to  me  giving  the  particulars.  Weed  had  word 
conveyed  to  Bennett  that  he  would  like  to  make  up.  Ben- 
nett thereupon  invited  Weed  to  Fort  Washington.  Weed 
was  shy;  sent  word  that  he  was  engaged  the  evening  named, 
which  was  untrue.  Bennett  then  sent  a  second  invitation, 
which  was  accepted;  and  Weed  dined  and  stayed  for  the 


night  at  Fort  Washington,  and  the  Herald  directly  changed 
its  tune. 

August  11,  Monday.  A  busy  day,  reading  and  preparing 
dispatches.  State  Department  is  sensitively  apprehensive 
that  our  naval  officers  will  not  be  sufficiently  forbearing 
towards  Englishmen.  The  old  error,  running  back  to  the 
commencement  of  difficulties,  when  the  Rebels  were  re- 
cognized as  belligerents,  and  a  blockade  was  ordered  instead 
of  closing  the  ports.  We  are  not,  it  is  true,  in  a  condition 
for  war  with  Great  Britain  just  at  this  time,  but  England 
is  in  scarcely  a  better  condition  for  a  war  with  us.  At  all 
events,  continued  and  degrading  submission  to  aggressive 
insolence  will  not  promote  harmony  nor  self-respect.  It 
is  a  gratification  to  me  that  our  naval  officers  assert  our 
rights.  I  have  no  fears  they  will  trespass  on  the  rights  of 
others.  Full  dispatches  received  from  Admiral  Farragut, 
who  has  got  his  larger  vessels  down  the  river  to  New  Or- 
leans. I  had  been  under  apprehensions  that  the  Mississippi 
was  getting  so  low  he  would  experience  difficulty. 

August  12,  Tuesday.  I  called  early  this  morning  on  the 
Secretary  of  State  touching  a  communication  of  his  of 
the  8th  inst.  which  I  received  yesterday,  in  which  I  am 
directed  in  the  name  of  the  President  to  give  instructions 
of  an  extraordinary  character  to  our  naval  officers,  instruc- 
tions which  I  do  not  approve,  and  which  in  one  or  two 
points  conflict  with  law  and  usage.  Though  the  direction 
was  in  the  President's  name,  I  learned  he  knew  nothing  of 
the  proceeding. 

Mr.  Seward  has  a  passion  to  be  thought  a  master  spirit 
in  the  Administration,  and  to  parade  before  others  an 
exhibition  of  authority  which  if  permitted  is  not  always 
exercised  wisely  or  intelligently.  Englishmen  have  com- 
plained that  their  vessels  were  detained  and  searched,  and 
that  they  have  experienced  great  inconvenience  by  the 
delay  in  the  transmission  of  letters  by  blockade-runners. 

80  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [AUG.  12 

These  matters  having  been  brought  before  the  Secretary 
of  State,  he  on  the  instant,  without  consultation  with  any 
one,  without  investigation,  without  being  aware  he  was 
disregarding  law  and  long-settled  principles,  volunteered 
to  say  he  would  mitigate  or  remedy  the  grievance,  would 
put  the  matter  right;  and,  under  the  impulse  of  the  mo- 
ment and  with  an  ostentatious  show  of  authority  which 
he  did  not  possess,  yielded  all  that  was  asked  and  more 
than  the  Englishmen  had  anticipated  or  than  the  Secretary 
was  authorized  to  give.  I  saw  that  he  had  acted  precip- 
itately and  inconsiderately,  and  was  soon  aware  that  the 
President,  in  whose  name  he  assumed  to  act,  was  unin- 
formed on  the  subject.  But  Seward  is  committed  and  can- 
not humiliate  himself  to  retrace  his  steps.  I  gave  him  to 
understand,  however,  I  would  send  out  no  such  instruc- 
tions as  he  had  sent  me  in  the  President's  name;  that  we 
had,  under  the  belligerent  right  of  search,  authority  to 
stop  any  suspected  vessel,  and  if  she  had  contraband  on 
board  to  capture  her;  that  no  blockade-runner  ever  cleared 
for  a  Rebel  port,  like  Charleston,  though  that  might  be  its 
actual  destination,  but  for  Halifax,  Nassau,  or  some  neu- 
tral port;  that  the  idea  of  surrendering  mails  and  letters 
captured  on  blockade-runners  to  foreign  consuls,  officers, 
and  legations,  instead  of  delivering  them,  as  the  law  ex- 
plicitly directs,  to  the  courts,  could  not  be  entertained  for 
a  moment.  Seward  suggested  that  I  could  so  modify  the 
proposed  instructions  as  to  make  them  conform  to  the 
law,  which  he  admitted  he  had  not  examined.  Said  it 
would  relieve  him  and  do  much  to  conciliate  the  English- 
men, who  were  troublesome,  and  willing  to  get  into  dif- 
ficulty with  us.  It  will  be  useless  to  see  the  President,  who 
will  be  alarmed  with  the  bugaboo  of  a  foreign  war,  a  bug- 
bear which  Seward  well  knows  how  to  use.  These  absurd 
instructions  do  not  originate  with  the  President,  yet, 
relating  to  foreign  matters,  he  will  endorse  them,  I  have  no 
doubt,  under  the  appeals  which  Seward  will  make. 
Nothing  of  special  interest  to-day  in  the  Cabinet.  Some 


gentlemen  —  Roseleas,  Coltman,  and  Bullitt  of  Louisiana 
—  were  with  the  President  when  I  called.  He  was  reading 
some  printed  letters  as  to  the  policy  which  the  Union  men 
of  Louisiana,  for  whom  they  appeared,  should  pursue.  He 
did  not  think  it  wise  or  expedient  for  them  to  shrink  from 
an  honest  and  open  avowal  of  then-  principles  and  pur- 
pose, assured  them  that  rallying  earnestly  for  the  Govern- 
ment and  the  service  would  be  the  surest  way  to  restore 

Had  a  long  private  letter  from  Commodore  Wilkes,  who 
deplores  recent  orders  in  regard  to  the  army  under  Mc- 
Clellan;  thinks  it  suicidal.  I  fear  there  is  truth  in  his 

August  15,  Friday.  Received  yesterday  a  note  from 
Chase  that  the  President  proposed  to  change  two  of  the 
nominees  under  the  new  tax  law  in  Connecticut.  Called 
on  the  President,  and  stated  to  him  I  did  it  as  a  duty,  that 
duty  alone  impelled  me.  He  said  he  fully  believed  it,  and 
was  glad  to  do  me  the  justice  to  say  that  in  matters  of  ap- 
pointments, patronage,  I  had  never  given  him  any  trouble. 

Having  an  appointment  this  Friday  morning  at  9  with 
the  President,  I  met  there  Babcock l  and  Platt 2  of  Connecti- 
cut. They  had  called  and  stated  their  case,  which  was  ex- 
tremely unjust  to  Mr.  Howard,  and,  turning  to  me,  Mr.  B. 
said  H.  claimed  he  had  procured  or  secured  my  appoint- 
ment. The  President  said  he  had  a  slight  acquaintance 
with  Mr.  H.  himself.  Had  met  him  in  Illinois  and  knew 
him  as  a  friend  of  mine.  Had  received  letters  from  him  ex- 
pressing regard  for  me,  and  one  signed  jointly  by  H.  and 
Senator  Dixon.  But  these  gentlemen  did  not  originate  his 
action  hi  relation  to  my  appointment.  "The  truth  is," 
said  he,  —  "and  I  may  as  well  state  the  facts  to  you,  for 
others  know  them, — on  the  day  of  the  Presidential  elec- 

1  James  F.  Babcock,  editor  of  the  New  Haven  Palladium.  Lincoln 
appointed  him  Collector  at  New  Haven. 

1  O.  H.  Platt,  subsequently  United  States  Senator. 

82  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [AUG.  15 

tion,  the  operator  of  the  telegraph  in  Springfield  placed  his 
instrument  at  my  disposal.  I  was  there  without  leaving, 
after  the  returns  began  to  come  in,  until  we  had  enough 
to  satisfy  us  how  the  election  had  gone.  This  was  about 
two  in  the  morning  of  Wednesday.  I  went  home,  but  not 
to  get  much  sleep,  for  I  then  felt,  as  I  never  had  before,  the 
responsibility  that  was  upon  me.  I  began  at  once  to  feel 
that  I  needed  support,  —  others  to  share  with  me  the  bur- 
den. This  was  on  Wednesday  morning,  and  before  the 
sun  went  down  I  had  made  up  my  Cabinet.  It  was  almost 
the  same  that  I  finally  appointed.  One  or  two  changes 
were  made,  and  the  particular  position  of  one  or  two  was 
unsettled.  My  mind  was  fixed  on  Mr.  Welles  as  the  mem- 
ber from  New  England  on  that  Wednesday.  Some  other 
names  passed  through  my  thoughts,  and  some  persons  were 
afterwards  pressed  upon  me,  but  the  man  and  the  place 
were  fixed  in  my  mind  then,  as  it  now  is.  My  choice  was 
confirmed  by  Mr.  H.,  by  Senator  Dixon,  Preston  King, 
Vice-President  Hamlin,  Governor  Morgan,  and  others,  but 
the  selection  was  my  own,  and  not  theirs,  and  Mr.  H.  is 
under  a  mistake  in  what  he  says." 

August  16,  Saturday.  With  the  President  an  hour  or  two 
this  A.M.,  selecting  candidates  from  a  large  number  recom- 
mended for  midshipmen  at  the  naval  school. 

Finished  a  set  of  instructions  for  our  naval  officers  hi 
matters  relating  to  prize  captures  and  enforcing  the  block- 
ade. Mr.  Seward  sent  me  a  few  days  since  in  the  name  of 
the  President  some  restraining  points  on  which  he  wished 
the  officers  to  be  instructed,  but  I  was  convinced  they 
would  work  injury.  Have  toned  down  and  modified  his 
paper,  relieved  it  of  its  illegal  features,  added  one  or  two 
precautionary  points  and  sent  the  document  to  the  State 
Department  for  criticism  and  suggestions. 

Mem.  It  may  be  well,  if  I  can  find  time,  to  get  up  a  com- 
plete set  of  instructions,  defining  the  points  of  international 
and  statute  law  which  are  disputed  or  not  well  understood. 


Have  a  long  telegram  from  Wilkes,  who  informs  me  that 
the  army  has  left,  and  asking  for  instructions  what  to  do 
now  that  McClellan  has  gone.  I  have  not  been  advised  of 
army  movements  by  either  the  Secretary  of  War  or  General 
Halleck.  Both  are  ready  at  all  times  to  call  for  naval  aid, 
but  are  almost  wholly  neglectful  of  the  Navy  and  of  their 
own  duties  in  regard  to  it,  as  in  this  instance. 

August  17,  Sunday.  Called  this  morning  on  General 
Halleck,  who  had  forgotten  or  was  not  aware  there  was  a 
naval  force  in  the  James  River  cooperating  with  the  army. 
He  said  the  army  was  withdrawn  and  there  was  no  neces- 
sity for  the  naval  vessels  to  remain.  I  remarked  that  I 
took  a  different  view  of  the  question,  and,  had  I  been  con- 
sulted, I  should  have  advised  that  the  naval  and  some  army 
forces  should  hold  on  and  menace  Richmond,  in  order  to 
compel  the  Rebels  to  retain  part  of  their  army  there  while 
our  forces  in  front  of  Washington  were  getting  in  position. 
He  began  to  rub  his  elbows,  and,  without  thanking  me  or 
acknowledgment  of  any  kind,  said  he  wished  the  vessels 
could  remain.  Telegraphed  Wilkes  to  that  effect.  Strange 
that  this  change  of  military  operations  should  have  been 
made  without  Cabinet  consultation,  and  especially  with- 
out communicating  the  fact  to  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy, 
who  had  established  a  naval  flotilla  on  the  James  River 
by  special  request  to  cooperate  with  and  assist  the  army. 
But  Stanton  is  so  absorbed  in  his  scheme  to  get  rid  of 
McClellan  that  other  and  more  important  matters  are 

A  difficulty  has  existed  from  the  beginning  in  the  mili- 
tary, and  I  may  say  general,  management  of  the  War.  At 
a  very  early  day,  before  even  the  firing  on  Sumter  and  the 
abandonment  of  Norfolk,  I  made  repeated  applications 
to  General  Scott  for  one  or  two  regiments  to  be  stationed 
there.  Anticipating  the  trouble  that  subsequently  took 
place,  and  confident  that,  with  one  regiment  well  com- 
manded and  a  good  engineer  to  construct  batteries,  with 

84  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [AUG.  17 

the  cooperation  of  the  frigate  Cumberland  and  such  small 
additional  naval  force  as  we  could  collect,  the  place  might 
be  held  at  least  until  the  public  property  and  ships  could 
be  removed,  I  urged  the  importance  of  such  aid.  The 
reply  on  each  occasion  was  that  he  not  only  had  no  troops 
to  spare  from  Washington  or  Fortress  Monroe,  both  of 
which  places  he  considered  in  great  danger,  but  that  if 
he  had,  he  would  not  send  a  detachment  in  what  he  con- 
sidered enemy's  country,  especially  as  there  were  no 
intrenchments.  I  deferred  to  his  military  character  and 
position,  but  remonstrated  against  this  view  of  the  case,  for 
I  was  assured,  and,  I  believe,  truly,  that  a  majority  of  the 
people  in  the  navy  yard  and  in  the  vicinity  of  Norfolk 
were  loyal,  friends  of  the  Union  and  opposed  to  Secession. 
He  said  that  might  be  the  political,  but  was  not  the  mili- 
tary, aspect,  and  he  must  be  governed  by  military  consid- 
erations in  disposing  of  his  troops. 

There  was  but  one  way  of  overcoming  these  objections 
and  that  was  by  peremptory  orders,  which  I  could  not, 
and  the  President  would  not,  give,  in  opposition  to  the 
opinions  of  General  Scott.  The  consequence  was  the  loss 
of  the  navy  yard  and  of  Norfolk,  and  the  almost  total 
extinguishment  of  the  Union  sentiment  in  that  quarter. 
Our  friends  there  became  cool  and  were  soon  alienated  by 
our  abandonment.  While  I  received  no  assistance  from 
the  military  in  that  emergency,  I  was  thwarted  and  embar- 
rassed by  the  secret  interference  of  the  Secretary  of  State 
in  my  operations.  General  Scott  was  for  a  defensive  policy, 
and  the  same  causes  which  influenced  him  in  that  matter, 
and  the  line  of  policy  which  he  marked  out,  have  governed 
the  educated  officers  of  the  army  and  to  a  great  extent 
shaped  the  war  measures  of  the  Government.  "We  must 
erect  our  batteries  on  the  eminences  in  the  vicinity  of 
Washington,"  said  General  Mansfield  to  me,  "and  estab- 
lish our  military  lines;  frontiers  between  the  belligerents, 
as  between  the  countries  of  Continental  Europe,  are 
requisite."  They  were  necessary  in  order  to  adapt  and 

1862]    MILITARY  THEORY  OF  FRONTIERS       85 

reconcile  the  theory  and  instruction  of  West  Point  to  the  war 
that  was  being  prosecuted.  We  should,  however,  by  this 
process  become  rapidly  two  hostile  nations.  All  beyond 
the  frontiers  must  be  considered  and  treated  as  enemies, 
although  large  sections,  and  in  some  instances  whole  States, 
have  a  Union  majority,  occasionally  in  some  sections 
approximating  unanimity. 

Instead  of  halting  on  the  borders,  building  intrench- 
ments,  and  repelling  indiscriminately  and  treating  as 
Rebels  —  enemies  —  all,  Union  as  well  as  disunion,  men 
in  the  insurrectionary  region,  we  should,  I  thought,  pene- 
trate their  territory,  nourish  and  protect  the  Union  senti- 
ment, and  create  and  strengthen  a  national  feeling  counter 
to  Secession.  This  we  might  have  done  in  North  Carolina, 
western  Virginia,  northern  Alabama  and  Georgia,  Arkan- 
sas, Texas,  and  in  fact  in  large  sections  of  nearly  every 
seceding  State.  Instead  of  holding  back,  we  should  be  ag- 
gressive and  enter  their  territory.  Our  generals  act  on  the 
defensive.  It  is  not  and  has  not  been  the  policy  of  the  coun- 
try to  be  aggressive  towards  others,  therefore  defensive 
tactics,  rather  than  offensive  have  been  taught,  and  the 
effect  upon  our  educated  commanders  in  this  civil  war  is 
perceptible.  The  best  material  for  commanders  in  this 
civil  strife  may  have  never  seen  West  Point.  There  is  some- 
thing in  the  remark  that  a  good  general  is  "born  to  com- 
mand." We  have  experienced  that  some  of  our  best-edu- 
cated officers  have  no  faculty  to  govern,  control,  and  direct 
an  army  in  offensive  warfare.  We  have  many  talented 
and  capable  engineers,  good  officers  in  some  respects,  but 
without  audacity,  desire  for  fierce  encounter,  and  in  that 
respect  almost  utterly  deficient  as  commanders.  Courage 
and  learning  are  essential,  but  something  more  is  wanted  for 
a  good  general,  —  talent,  intuition,  magnetic  power,  which 
West  Point  cannot  give.  Men  who  would  have  made  the 
best  generals  and  who  possess  innately  the  best  and  high- 
est qualities  to  command  may  not  have  been  so  fortunate 
as  to  be  selected  by  a  Member  of  Congress  to  be  a  cadet. 

86  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [AUG.  17 

Jackson  and  Taylor  were  excellent  generals,  but  they  were 
not  educated  engineers,  nor  were  they  what  would  be  con- 
sidered in  these  days  accomplished  and  educated  military 
men.  They  detailed  and  availed  themselves  of  engineers, 
and  searched  out  and  found  the  needed  qualities  in  others. 

We  were  unused  to  war  when  these  present  difficulties 
commenced,  and  have  often  permitted  men  of  the  army 
to  decide  questions  that  were  more  political  than  military. 
There  is  still  the  same  misfortune,  —  for  I  deem  it  such. 

From  the  beginning  there  was  a  persistent  determination 
to  treat  the  Rebels  as  alien  belligerents,  —  as  a  hostile 
and  distinct  people,  —  to  blockade,  instead  of  closing,  their 
ports.  The  men  "duly  accredited  by  the  Confederate 
States  of  America"  held  back-door  intercourse  with  the 
Secretary  of  State,  and  lived  and  moved  in  ostentatious 
style  in  Washington  for  some  weeks.  Thus  commencing, 
other  governments  had  reason  to  claim  that  we  had  in- 
itiated them  into  the  belief  that  the  Federal  Government 
and  its  opponents  were  two  nations;  and  the  Union  peo- 
ple of  the  South  were,  by  this  policy  of  our  Government 
and  that  of  the  army,  driven,  compelled  against  their 
wishes,  to  be  our  antagonists. 

No  man  in  the  South  could  avow  himself  a  friend  of  the 
Union  without  forfeiting  his  estate,  his  liberty,  and  per- 
haps his  life  under  State  laws  of  the  Confederates.  The 
Federal  Government  not  only  afforded  him  no  protection, 
but  under  the  military  system  of  frontiers  he  was  treated 
as  a  public  enemy  because  he  resided  in  his  own  home  at 
the  South. 

August  18,  Monday.  Had  a  call  to-day  from  an  old 
schoolmate  at  Cheshire,  now  a  chaplain  in  the  army, 
Joseph  H.  Nichols.  Invited  and  had  him  to  tea  with  me 
and  talked  over  school-boy  days.  It  is  thirty-five  years  or 
over  since  we  have  met,  though  not  unfrequently  in  the 
same  place. 

Sent  Commodore  Wilkes  a  dispatch  to  hold  his  ground 

1862]     WILKES  A  TROUBLESOME  OFFICER      87 

and  await  events.  Will  send  him  specific  orders  when  de- 
velopments justify.  He  is  a  troublesome  officer  in  many 
respects,  unpopular  in  the  Navy  and  never  on  good  terms 
with  the  Department,  yet  I  have  thus  far  got  along  with 
huii  very  well,  though  in  constant  apprehension  that  he 
will  commit  some  rash  act.  He  is  ambitious,  self-con- 
ceited, and  self-willed.  The  withdrawal  of  the  army  from 
before  Richmond  disconcerts  him,  and  to  make  his  mark 
he  may  do  some  indiscreet,  rash,  and  indefensible  act. 
But  I  trust  not.  He  has  abilities  but  not  sound  judg- 
ment, and  is  not  always  subordinate,  though  he  is  himself 
severe  and  exacting  towards  his  subordinates. 

Had  a  letter  from  Fox  at  Portsmouth.  Says  there  are 
traitors  even  there.  It  will  be  necessary  that  the  Govern- 
ment should  be  felt  as  a  power  before  this  Rebellion  can 
be  suppressed.  The  armored  boats,  to  which  he  was  to 
give  some  attention,  are  progressing  as  well  as  can  be 
expected.  .  .  . 

August  20,  Wednesday.  Memo.  Soon  after  hostilities 
commenced,  in  the  spring  or  summer  of  1861,  a  letter  from 
William  D.  Porter  to  his  son  was  published.  The  son  had 
joined  the  Rebels,  and  so  informed  his  father,  who  wrote 
him  he  thought  he  had  committed  a  mistake.  But,  having 
taken  this  step,  he  advised  him  to  adhere  and  do  his  duty. 
At  that  tune  W.  D.  P.  was  on  duty  in  the  Pacific.  I  im- 
mediately detached  and  ordered  him  home.  He  reported 
to  me  in  great  distress;  disavowed  the  letter;  said  it  was 
a  forgery,  that  his  son  and  himself  were  on  bad  terms  and 
the  letter  had  been  written  and  published  to  injure  him. 
There  was,  he  informed  me,  much  disagreement  in  the 
family;  his  son  had  been  alienated  from  him,  and,  like 
David,  sympathized  with  the  Secessionists,  while  he  (W.) 
had  taken  the  opposite  course.  David,  he  remarked, 
was  the  intimate  friend  of  Jefferson  Davis  and  the  Rebel 
conspirators,  and  he  had  expected  that  he  would  act 
with  them,  and  he  had  no  doubt  that  David's  course  had 

88  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [AUG.  20 

injured  him;  confounding  him  with  D.,  he  was  made  ac- 
countable for  D.'s  acts.  David  said  he  had  no  doubt  that 
Bill  wrote  the  letter,  and  I  was  of  that  opinion.1  William 
had,  not  without  reason,  the  reputation  of  being  very 
untruthful,  —  a  failing  of  the  Porters,  for  David  was  not 
always  reliable  on  unimportant  matters,  but  amplified 
and  colored  transactions,  where  he  was  personally  inter- 
ested especially,  but  he  had  not  the  bad  reputation  of 
William.  I  did  not  always  consider  David  to  be  depended 
upon  if  he  had  an  end  to  attain,  and  he  had  no  hesitation 
in  trampling  down  a  brother  officer  if  it  would  benefit  him- 
self. He  had  less  heart  than  William. 

Had  a  conversation  with  the  President  hi  relation  to 
W.  D.  Porter,  who  was  the  efficient  officer  that  attacked 
and  destroyed  the  Rebel  armored  ram  Arkansas.  Porter 
is  a  bold,  brave  man,  but  reckless  in  many  respects,  and 
unpopular,  perhaps  not  without  reason,  in  the  service.  He 
has  been  earnest  and  vigorous  on  the  Mississippi,  and  made 
himself.  The  Advisory  Board  under  the  late  law  omitted 
to  recommend  him  for  promotion.  It  was  one  of  the  few 
omissions  that  I  regretted,  for  whatever  the  infirmities  of 
the  man  I  recognize  his  merits  as  an  officer. 

His  courage  in  destroying  the  Arkansas  was  manifest. 
Both  the  flag  officers  were  delinquent  in  the  matter  of  that 
vessel  at  Vicksburg,  and  I  so  wrote  each  of  them.  Ad- 
miral Farragut  cannot  conceal  his  joy  that  she  is  destroyed, 
but  is  not  ready  to  do  full  justice  to  Porter. 

I  canvassed  the  whole  question,  —  the  law,  the  proceed- 
ings, the  difficulties,  the  man,  the  officer,  the  responsibil- 
ity of  promoting  him  and  of  my  advising  it,  —  yet  I  felt 
it  a  duty,  if  service  rendered  in  battle  and  under  fire  were 
to  govern.  The  President  conversed  with  me  most  fully, 
and  said, ' '  I  am  so  satisfied  that  you  are  right  generally,  and 

1  I  some  years  later,  and  after  William's  death,  learned  from  Admiral 
Farragut  and  Mrs.  Farragut  that  they  knew  the  letter  to  be  a  forgery  and 
that  it  was  got  up  for  mischievous  purposes.  —  G.  W, 

1862]        PROMOTION  OF  W.  D.  PORTER  89 

in  this  case  particularly,  that  I  say  to  you,  Go  ahead,  give 
Porter  as  you  propose  a  Commodore's  appointment,  and 
I  will  stand  by  you,  come  what  may." 

Sent  a  letter  of  reproof  to  Colonel  Harris  and  also  one 
to  Lieutenant-Colonel  Reynolds  of  the  Marine  Corps, 
between  whom  there  is  a  bitter  feud.  Almost  all  the  elder 
officers  are  at  loggerheads  and  ought  to  be  retired.  Rey- 
nolds had  been  tried  by  court  martial  on  charges  pre- 
ferred by  Harris,  and  acquitted,  though  by  confessions 
made  to  me  personally  guilty.  But  a  majority  of  the 
anti-Harris  faction  constituted  the  court,  and  partisan- 
ship, not  merit,  governed  the  decision.  I  refused  to  ap- 
prove the  finding.  In  his  turn,  Reynolds  brought  charges 
against  Harris,  and  of  such  a  character  as  to  implicate 
others.  To  have  gone  forward  would  have  been  to  plunge 
into  a  series  of  courts  martial  for  a  year  to  come. 

McClellan's  forces  have  left  the  banks  of  James  River 
several  days  since.  Their  exodus  I  think  was  not  anti- 
cipated at  Richmond,  nor  believed  until  after  all  had  left 
and  crossed  the  Chickahominy.  We  are  beginning  to  hear 
of  the  arrival  of  the  advance  guard  at  Acquia  Creek,  Alex- 
andria, and  Fredericksburg.  In  the  mean  time  Pope  is 
being  heavily  pressed  at  Culpeper  by  Stonewall  Jackson 
and  the  whole  accumulated  forces  from  Richmond,  which 
has  compelled  him  to  fall  back  on  the  left  bank  of  the 
Rapidan,  his  policy  being  to  keep  the  enemy  in  check 
until  McClellan's  forces  can  unite  with  him. 

August  22,  Friday.  The  President  tells  me  he  has  a  list 
of  the  number  of  new  recruits  which  have  reached  Wash- 
ington under  the  late  call.  Over  18,000  have  arrived  in 
just  one  week.  There  is  wonderful  and  increasing  enthu- 
siasm and  determination  to  put  down  this  Rebellion  and 
sustain  the  integrity  of  the  Union.  It  is  confined  to 
no  class  or  party  or  description:  rich  and  poor,  the  edu- 
cated and  ignorant,  the  gentle  and  refined  as  well  as  the 
stout,  coarse,  and  athletic,  the  Democrats  generally  as 

90  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [AUG.  22 

well  as  the  Republicans,  are  offering  themselves  to  the 

Governor  Dennison  and  Judge  Swayne  *  of  Ohio,  with 
others,  are  urging  in  person  the  establishment  of  a  line  of 
armed  and  armored  steamers  on  the  Ohio  River.  The  plan 
has  been  elaborated  with  much  care,  and  has  been  before 
presented  and  pressed  with  some  zeal.  Distrust,  no  doubt, 
in  regard  to  army  management  leads  these  men  to  seek 
naval  protection.  The  Blah's  are  quoted  to  me  as  favoring 
the  movement,  and  Fox  has  given  them  encouragement. 
It  has  not  found  favor  with  me  at  any  time.  It  is  now 
brought  to  my  attention  in  such  a  way  that  I  am  compelled 
to  take  it  up.  I  find  that  great  names  and  entire  com- 
munities in  Ohio  and  Indiana,  led  on  by  the  authorities  of 
those  States,  are  engaged  in  it.  I  told  the  principal  agent, 
who,  with  Governor  D.,  had  a  long  interview  with  me, 
that  my  judgment  and  convictions  were  against  it,  for: 
First :  I  had  no  faith  that  light-draft  gunboats  would  be 
a  safe  and  reliable  means  of  frontier  river-defense.  They 
might  be  auxiliary  and  essential  aids  to  the  army,  but  they 
cannot  carry  heavy  armament,  are  frail,  and  in  low  stages 
of  the  water,  with  high  banks  which  overlook  the  river, 
would  not  be  effective  and  could  hardly  take  care  of  them- 
selves, though  in  certain  cases,  and  especially  in  high  water, 
they  might  greatly  aid  the  army.  Secondly:  As  a  matter 
of  policy  it  would  be  injudicious  and  positively  harmful 
to  establish  a  frontier  line  between  Ohio  and  Kentucky, 
making  the  river  the  military  boundary,  —  it  would  be 
conceding  too  much.  If  a  line  of  boats  could  assist  in  pro- 
tecting the  northern  banks  of  the  Ohio  they  could  afford 
little  security  to  the  southern  banks,  where,  as  in  Ohio, 
there  is,  except  hi  localities,  a  majority  for  the  Union.  I 
added  that  I  should  be  opposed  to  any  plan  which  pro- 
posed to  establish  frontier  lines,  therein  differing  from 
some  of  our  best  army  officers;  that  I  thought  neither  Ohio 
nor  Indiana  could,  on  deliberate  consideration,  wish  the 
1  Noah  H.  Swayne,  of  the  United  States  Supreme  Court. 

1862]      BURNSIDE  ASKS   FOR   GUNBOATS        91 

line  of  separation  from  hostile  forces  should  be  the  north- 
ern boundary  of  Kentucky.  It  appeared  to  me  the  true 
course  was  to  make  their  interest  in  this  war  identical  with 
that  of  Kentucky,  and  if  there  were  to  be  a  line  of  de- 
marcation it  should  be  as  far  south  as  the  southern  bound- 
ary of  Tennessee,  and  not  the  banks  of  the  Ohio.  The 
gentlemen  seemed  to  be  impressed  with  these  general  views. 

August  24,  Sunday.  Have  a  dispatch  from  General  Burn- 
side  at  Falmouth,  calling  earnestly  for  five  or  six  gunboats 
in  the  Potomac  at  Acquia  Creek.  Mentions  having  made 
a  personal  application  at  the  Navy  Department.  Nothing 
has  been  said  to  me  by  him  or  any  one,  nor  has  any  re- 
quisition been  made.  I  find,  however,  on  inquiry,  that  in 
a  general  conversation  in  the  room  of  the  Chief  Clerk  he 
expressed  something  of  the  kind.  The  General  feels  that 
a  heavy  responsibility  is  upon  him,  and  in  case  of  disaster 
desires  like  others  the  protection  of  the  gunboats.  It  is 
honorable  to  him  that,  unlike  some  other  generals,  he 
willingly  gives  credit  to  the  Navy.  The  protection  he  now 
seeks  is  a  wise  precaution,  perhaps,  but,  I  apprehend, 
wholly  unnecessary.  I  have,  however,  ordered  Wilkes  to 
send  round  five  gunboats  from  James  River.  The  War 
Department  sends  me  a  letter  from  Major-General  Curtis 
to  General  Halleck,  requesting  more  gunboats  on  the 
Western  rivers.  Wrote  Admiral  Davis  that  the  navigation 
of  the  Mississippi  should  be  kept  unobstructed,  not  only 
between  Memphis  and  Arkansas  River  but  elsewhere,  and 
to  cooperate  with  and  assist  the  army. 

August  25,  Monday.  Wrote  Wilkes,  preparatory  to  dis- 
continuing the  organization  of  the  James  River  Flotilla 
as  a  distinct  organization.  Received  from  him,  after  it 
was  written,  an  unofficial  letter  communicating  a  plan 
of  offensive  operations.  Directed  him  in  reply  to  engage 
in  no  scheme  whereby  the  gunboats  would  be  detained  in 
James  River  longer  than  the  army  absolutely  needed  them 

92  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [AUG.  25 

to  divert  the  attention  of  the  Rebels  and  prevent  them 
from  sending  their  whole  force  against  General  Pope 
before  General  McClellan  could  reach  him.  The  change 
of  the  plan  of  operations  is  a  military  movement,  suggested 
and  pushed  by  Chase  and  Stanton.  It  will  be  a  great  dis- 
appointment to  Wilkes  as  well  as  others,  but  there  is  no 
remedy.  As  soon  as  the  gunboats  can  be  released  we  want 
them  elsewhere.  They  have  been  locked  up  in  James 
River  for  two  months,  when  they  should  have  been  on 
other  duty.  McClellan's  tardy  policy  has  been  unfortun- 
ate for  himself  and  the  country.  It  has  strengthened 
the  combination  against  him.  Faxon l  showed  me  a  letter 
from  Admiral  Foote  which  I  was  sorry  to  read,  evincing 
a  petulance  that  is  unworthy  of  him,  and  proposing  to 
relinquish  his  bureau  appointment,  if  he  cannot  control 
the  selection  of  certain  clerks. 

August  27,  Tuesday.  Called  on  the  Attorney-General 
in  relation  to  the  appointment  of  a  chaplain,  —  a  singular 
case.  When  the  Cumberland  was  sunk  in  March  last,  and  a 
considerable  portion  of  her  crew,  it  was  supposed  the  chap- 
lain was  lost.  This  fact  brought  a  large  flock  of  clerical 
gentlemen  to  Washington  for  the  place.  The  first  who 
reached  here  was  Rev.  K.  of  Germantown,  and  the  Pre- 
sident hi  the  kindness  of  his  heart  wrote  a  note  requesting 
that  Mr.  K.  might,  if  there  was  nothing  to  prevent,  have 
the  place  of  the  supposed  drowned.  It  was  not  certain, 
however,  that  there  was  a  vacancy,  —  we  were  daily  hear- 
ing of  escaped  victims  who  were  preserved,  —  and  duty 
forbade  an  immediate  appointment.  Congress,  before  ad- 
journing, enacted  a  law  that  no  person  should  be  appointed 
chaplain  who  was  over  thirty-five.  Mr.  K.  is  forty-eight, 
but,  unwilling  to  relinquish  the  place,  he  pressed  the  Presi- 
dent with  his  friends  and  procured  from  him  another  letter, 
directing  the  appointment  to  be  made  now,  if  it  was  one 
that  could  have  been  made  then.  On  bringing  this  to  me, 
1  William  Faxon,  Chief  Clerk  of  the  Navy  Department. 

1862]          CABAL  AGAINST   McCLELLAN  83 

I  told  the  reverend  gentleman  it  was  in  disregard  of  the 
law,  and  could  not  be  made  in  my  opinion ;  that  I  must 
at  all  events  see  the  President  before  any  steps  were  taken 
and  advise  him  of  the  facts. 

This  I  did,  and  by  his  request  called  on  the  Attorney- 
General.  That  gentleman,  as  I  expected,  requests  a  written 
application  for  his  opinion. 

Have  a  letter  from  Admiral  Foote,  who  has  thought  a 
second  time  of  his  conclusions  in  his  letter  to  Mr.  Faxon, 
expresses  regret,  and  very  handsomely  apologizes.  I  had 
expected  this;  should  have  been  disappointed  in  the  man 
if  he  had  not  made  it. 

August  31,  Sunday.  For  the  last  two  or  three  days  there 
has  been  fighting  at  the  front  and  army  movements  of 
interest.  McClellan  with  most  of  his  army  arrived  at  Alex- 
andria a  week  or  more  ago,  but  inertness,  inactivity,  and 
sluggishness  seem  to  prevail.  The  army  officers  do  not 
engage  in  this  move  of  the  War  Department  with  zeal. 
Some  of  the  troops  have  gone  forward  to  join  Pope,  who  has 
been  beyond  Manassas,  where  he  has  encountered  Stone- 
wall Jackson  and  the  Rebel  forces  for  the  last  three  days 
in  a  severe  struggle.  The  energy  and  rapid  movements  of 
the  Rebels  are  in  such  striking  contrast  to  those  of  our  own 
officers  that  I  shall  not  be  seriously  surprised  at  any  sud- 
den dash  from  them.  The  War  Department  —  Stanton  and 
Halleck — are  alarmed.  By  request,  and  in  anticipation 
of  the  worst,  though  not  expecting  it,  I  have  ordered 
Wilkes  and  a  force  of  fourteen  gunboats,  including  the 
five  light-draft  asked  for  by  Burnside,  to  come  round  into 
the  Potomac,  and  have  put  W.  in  command  of  the  flotilla 
here,  disbanding  the  flotilla  on  the  James. 

Yesterday,  Saturday,  P.M.,  when  about  leaving  the  De- 
partment, Chase  called  on  me  with  a  protest  addressed  to 
the  President,  signed  by  himself  and  Stanton,  against  con- 
tinuing McClellan  in  command  and  demanding  his  immedi- 
ate dismissal.  Certain  grave  offenses  were  enumerated. 

94  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [AUG.  31 

Chase  said  that  Smith  had  seen  and  would  sign  it  in  turn, 
but  as  my  name  preceded  his  in  order,  he  desired  mine 
to  appear  in  its  place.  I  told  him  I  was  not  prepared  to 
sign  the  document;  that  I  preferred  a  different  method 
of  meeting  the  question;  that  if  asked  by  the  President, 
and  even  if  not  asked,  I  was  prepared  to  express  my  opin- 
ion, which,  as  he  knew,  had  long  been  averse  to  McClellan's 
dilatory  course,  and  was  much  aggravated  from  what  I 
had  recently  learned  at  the  War  Department;  that  I  did 
not  choose  to  denounce  McC.  for  incapacity,  or  to  pro- 
nounce him  a  traitor,  as  declared  in  this  paper,  but  I  would 
say,  and  perhaps  it  was  my  duty  to  say,  that  I  believed 
his  removal  from  command  was  demanded  by  public 
sentiment  and  the  best  interest  of  the  country. 

Chase  said  that  was  not  sufficient,  that  the  time  had  ar- 
rived when  the  Cabinet  must  act  with  energy  and  prompti- 
tude, for  either  the  Government  or  McClellan  must  go 
down.  He  then  proceeded  to  expose  certain  acts,  some  of 
which  were  partially  known  to  me,  and  others,  more  start- 
ling, which  were  new  to  me.  I  said  to  C.  that  he  and  Stanton 
were  familiar  with  facts  of  which  I  was  ignorant,  and  there 
might  therefore  be  propriety  in  then*  stating  what  they 
knew,  though  in  a  different  way,  —  facts  which  I  could 
not  indorse  because  I  had  no  knowledge  of  them.  I  pro- 
posed as  a  preferable  course  that  there  should  be  a  gen- 
eral consultation  with  the  President.  He  objected  to  this 
until  the  document  was  signed,  which,  he  said,  should  be 
done  at  once. 

This  method  of  getting  signatures  without  an  inter- 
change of  views  with  those  who  are  associated  in  council 
was  repugnant  to  my  ideas  of  duty  and  right.  When  I 
asked  if  the  Attorney-General  and  Postmaster-General 
had  seen  the  paper  or  been  consulted,  he  replied  not  yet, 
then1  turn  had  not  come.  I  informed  C.  that  I  should  de- 
sire to  advise  with  them  in  so  important  a  matter ;  that  I 
was  disinclined  to  sign  the  paper ;  did  not  like  the  proceed- 
ing; that  I  could  not,  though  I  wished  McClellan  removed 


1862]  STANTON   ON  McCLELLAN  95 

after  what  I  had  heard,  and  should  have  no  hesitation  in 
saying  so  at  the  proper  time  and  place  and  in  what  I  con- 
sidered the  right  way.  While  we  were  talking,  Blair  came 
in.  Chase  was  alarmed,  for  the  paper  was  in  my  hand  and 
he  evidently  feared  I  should  address  B.  on  the  subject. 
This,  after  witnessing  his  agitation,  I  could  not  do  with- 
out his  consent.  Blair  remained  but  a  few  moments;  did 
not  even  take  a  seat.  After  he  left,  I  asked  Chase  if  we 
should  not  call  him  back  and  consult  him.  C.  said  in  great 
haste,  "No,  not  now;  it  is  best  he  should  for  the  present 
know  no  thing  of  it."  I  took  a  different  view;  said  that  there 
was  no  one  of  the  Cabinet  whom  I  would  sooner  consult 
on  this  subject,  that  I  thought  Blair's  opinion,  especially 
on  military  matters,  he  having  had  a  military  education, 
very  correct.  Chase  said  this  was  not  the  time  to  bring 
him  in.  After  Chase  left  me,  he  returned  to  make  a  special 
request  that  I  would  make  no  allusion  concerning  the  paper 
to  Blair  or  any  one  else. 

Met,  by  invitation,  a  few  friends  last  evening  at  Baron 
Gerolt's.1  My  call  was  early,  and,  feeling  anxious  concern- 
ing affairs  in  front,  I  soon  excused  myself  to  go  to  the  War 
Department  for  tidings.  Found  Stanton  and  Caleb  Smith 
alone  in  the  Secretary's  room.  The  conduct  of  McClellan 
was  soon  taken  up;  it  had,  I  inferred,  been  under  discus- 
sion before  I  came  in. 

Stanton  began  with  a  statement  of  his  entrance  into 
the  Cabinet  in  January  last,  when  he  found  everything  in 
confusion,  with  unpaid  bills  on  his  table  to  the  amount  of 
over  $20,000,000  against  the  Department;  his  inability, 
then  or  since,  to  procure  any  satisfactory  information 
from  McClellan,  who  had  no  plan  nor  any  system.  Said 
this  vague,  indefinite  uncertainty  was  oppressive;  that 
near  the  close  of  January  he  pressed  this  subject  on  the 
President,  who  issued  the  order  to  him  and  myself  for  an 
advance  on  the  22d  of  February.  McClellan  began  at  once 
to  interpose  objections,  yet  did  nothing,  but  talked  always 

1  The  Prussian  Minister. 

96  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [AUG.  31 

vaguely  and  indefinitely  and  of  various  matters  except 
those  immediately  in  hand.  The  President  insisted  on, 
and  ordered,  a  forward  movement.  Then  McClellan  stated 
he  intended  a  demonstration  on  the  upper  waters  of  the 
Potomac,  and  boats  for  a  bridge  were  prepared  with  great 
labor  and  expense.  He  went  up  there  and  telegraphed 
back  that  two  or  three  officers — his  favorites  —  had  done 
admirably  in  preparing  the  bridge  and  he  wished  them  to 
be  brevetted.  The  whole  thing  was  absurd,  eventuated 
in  nothing,  and  he  was  ordered  back. 

The  President  then  commanded  that  the  army  should 
proceed  to  Richmond.  McClellan  delayed,  hesitated,  said 
he  must  go  by  way  of  the  Peninsula,  would  take  transports 
at  Annapolis.  In  order  that  he  should  have  no  excuse,  but 
without  any  faith  in  his  plan,  Stanton  said  he  ordered 
transports  and  supplies  to  Annapolis.  The  President,  in 
the  mean  time,  urged  and  pressed  a  forward  movement 
towards  Manassas.  Spoke  of  its  results,  —  the  wooden 
guns,  the  evacuation  by  the  Rebels,  who  fled  before  the 
General  came,  and  he  did  not  pursue  them  but  came  back 
to  Washington.  The  transports  were  then  ordered  round 
to  the  Potomac,  where  the  troops  were  shipped  to  Fortress 
Monroe.  The  plans,  the  number  of  troops  to  proceed,  the 
number  that  was  to  remain,  Stanton  recounted.  These 
arrangements  were  somewhat  deranged  by  the  sudden 
raid  of  Jackson  towards  Winchester,  which  withdrew  Banks 
from  Manassas,  leaving  no  force  between  Washington  and 
the  Rebel  army  at  Gordonsville.  He  then  ordered  McDow- 
ell and  his  division,  also  Franklin's  command,  to  remain, 
to  the  great  grief  of  McDowell,  who  believed  glory  and 
fighting  were  all  to  be  with  the  grand  army.  McClellan 
had  made  the  withholding  of  this  necessary  force  to  pro- 
tect the  seat  of  government  his  excuse  for  not  being  more 
rapid  and  effective;  was  constantly  complaining.  The 
President  wrote  him  how,  by  his  arrangement,  only  18,000 
troops,  remnants  and  odd  parcels,  were  left  to  protect  the 
Capital.  Still  McClellan  was  complaining  and  underrating 

1862]  STANTON   ON  McCLELLAN  97 

his  forces;  said  he  had  but  96,000,  when  his  own  returns 
showed  he  had  123,000.  But,  to  stop  his  complaints  and 
drive  him  forward,  the  President  finally,  on  the  10th  of 
June,  sent  him  McCall  and  his  division,  with  which  he 
promised  to  proceed  at  once  to  Richmond,  but  did  not, 
lingered  along  until  finally  attacked.  McClellan's  excuse 
for  going  by  way  of  the  Peninsula  was  that  he  might  have 
good  roads  and  dry  ground,  but  his  complaints  were  un- 
ceasing, after  he  got  there,  of  bad  roads,  water,  and  swamps. 

When  finally  ordered,  after  his  blunders  and  reverses, 
to  withdraw  from  James  River,  he  delayed  obeying  the 
order  for  thirteen  days,  and  never  did  comply  until  Gen- 
eral Burnside  was  sent  to  supersede  him  if  he  did  not  move. 

Since  his  arrival  at  Alexandria,  Stanton  says,  only  delay 
and  embarrassment  had  governed  him.  General  Halleck 
had,  among  other  things,  ordered  General  Franklin's  divi- 
sion to  go  forward  promptly  to  support  Pope  at  Manassas. 
When  Franklin  got  as  far  as  Annandale  he  was  stopped  by 
McClellan,  against  orders  from  Headquarters.  McClel- 
lan's  excuse  was  he  thought  Franklin  might  be  in  danger 
if  he  proceeded  farther.  For  twenty-four  hours  that  large 
force  remained  stationary,  hearing  the  whole  time  the  guns 
of  the  battle  that  was  raging  in  front.  In  consequence  of 
this  delay  by  command  of  McClellan,  against  specific  or- 
ders, he  apprehended  our  army  would  be  compelled  to  fall 

Smith  left  whilst  we  were  conversing  after  this  detailed 
narrative,  and  Stanton,  dropping  his  voice,  though  no  one 
was  present,  said  he  understood  from  Chase  that  I  de- 
clined to  sign  the  protest  which  he  had  drawn  up  against 
McClellan's  continuance  in  command,  and  asked  if  I  did 
not  think  we  ought  to  get  rid  of  him.  I  told  him  I  might 
not  differ  with  him  on  that  point,  especially  after  what  I 
had  heard  in  addition  to  what  I  had  previously  known, 
but  that  I  disliked  the  method  and  manner  of  proceeding, 
that  it  appeared  to  me  an  unwise  and  injudicious  pro- 
ceeding, and  was  discourteous  and  disrespectful  to  the 

98  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [AUG.  31 

President,  were  there  nothing  else.  Stanton  said,  with  some 
excitement,  he  knew  of  no  particular  obligations  he  was 
under  to  the  President,  who  had  called  him  to  a  difficult 
position  and  imposed  upon  him  labors  and  responsibilities 
which  no  man  could  carry,  and  which  were  greatly  in- 
creased by  fastening  upon  him  a  commander  who  was  con- 
stantly striving  to  embarrass  him  in  his  administration 
of  the  Department.  He  could  not  and  would  not  submit 
to  a  continuance  of  this  state  of  things.  I  admitted  they 
were  bad,  severe  on  him,  and  he  could  and  had  stated  his 
case  strongly,  but  I  could  not  from  facts  within  my  own 
knowledge  indorse  them,  nor  did  I  like  the  manner  in 
which  it  was  proposed  to  bring  about  a  dismissal.  He  said 
among  other  things  General  Pope  telegraphed  to  McClel- 
lan  for  supplies;  the  latter  informed  P.  they  were  at  Alex- 
andria, and  if  P.  would  send  an  escort  he  could  have  them. 
A  general  fighting,  on  the  field  of  battle,  to  send  to  a  gen- 
eral in  the  rear  and  in  repose  an  escort ! 

Watson,  Assistant  Secretary  of  War,  repeated  to  me 
this  last  fact  this  morning,  and  reaffirmed  others.  He  in- 
forms me  that  my  course  on  a  certain  occasion  had  offended 
McClellan  and  was  not  approved  by  others;  but  that  both 
the  President  and  Stanton  had  since,  and  now,  in  their 
private  conversation,  admitted  I  was  right,  and  that  my 
letter  in  answer  to  a  curt  and  improper  demand  of  Mc- 
Clellan last  spring  was  proper  and  correct.  Watson  says  he 
always  told  the  President  and  Stanton  I  was  right,  and  he 
complimented  me  on  several  subjects,  which,  though  grati- 
fying, others  can  speak  of  and  judge  better  than  myself. 

We  hear,  this  Sunday  morning,  that  our  army  has 
fallen  back  to  Centreville.1  Pope  writes  in  pretty  good 
spirits  that  we  have  lost  no  guns,  etc.  The  Rebels  were 
largely  reinforced,  while  our  troops,  detained  at  Annan- 
dale  by  McClellan's  orders,  did  not  arrive  to  support  our 
wearied  and  exhausted  men.  McClellan  telegraphs  that  he 
hears  "Pope  is  badly  cut  up."  Schenck,  who  had  a  wound 
1  After  the  defeat  in  the  Second  Battle  of  Bull  Run. 

1862]        NEED   OF   BETTER  GENERALS  99 

in  his  arm,  left  the  battle-field,  bringing  with  him  for  com- 
pany an  Ohio  captain.  Both  arrived  safe  at  Willard's. 
They  met  McCall  on  the  other  side  of  Centreville  and 
Sumner  on  this  side.  Late!  late! 

Up  to  this  hour,  1  P.M.,  Sunday,  no  specific  intelligence 
beyond  the  general  facts  above  stated.  There  is  consid- 
erable uneasiness  in  this  city,  which  is  mere  panic.  I  see 
no  cause  for  alarm.  It  is  impossible  to  feel  otherwise 
than  sorrowful  and  sad  over  the  waste  of  life  and  treasure 
and  energies  of  the  nation,  the  misplaced  confidence  in 
certain  men,  the  errors  of  some,  perhaps  the  crimes  of 
others,  who  have  been  trusted.  But  my  faith  in  present 
security  and  of  ultimate  success  is  unshaken.  We  need 
better  generals  but  can  have  no  better  army.  There  is 
much  latent  disloyal  feeling  in  Washington  which  should 
be  expelled.  And  oh,  there  is  great  want  of  capacity  and 
will  among  our  military  leaders. 

I  hear  that  all  the  churches  not  heretofore  seized  are 
now  taken  for  hospital  purposes;  private  dwellings  are 
taken  to  be  thus  used,  among  others  my  next  neighbor 
Corcoran's l  fine  house  and  grounds.  There  is  malice  in  this. 
I  told  General  Halleck  it  was  vandalism.  He  admitted 
it  would  be  wrong.  Halleck  walked  over  with  me  from  the 
War  Department  as  far  as  my  house,  and  is,  I  perceive, 
quite  alarmed  for  the  safety  of  the  city;  says  that  we 
overrate  our  own  strength  and  underestimate  the  Rebels' 
—  a  fatal  error  in  Halleck.  This  has  been  the  talk  of 
McClellan,  which  none  of  us  have  believed. 

1  William  W.  Corcoran,  the  banker,  who  among  other  public  benefac- 
tions gave  the  city  of  Washington  the  art  gallery  which  bears  his  name. 


After  the  Second  Battle  of  Bull  Run  —  Another  Anti-McClellan  Paper  — 
The  Opinion  about  General  Pope  —  Wilkes  and  McClellan  —  McClel- 
lan's  Remarks  about  South  Carolina  and  Massachusetts  —  The  Bicker- 
ings of  the  Generals  —  The  President's  Opinion  of  McClellan  and  Pope 

—  Rumors  of  a  Proposed  Revolution  —  An  Estimate  of  Halleck  — 
Panic-stricken  New  York  —  A  Scheme  to  deport  Slaves  to  Chiriqui 

—  The  "West  Point"  Policy  —  An  Estimate  of  Stanton  —  Lincoln's 
Deference  to  Seward  —  The  Administration  of  the  Departments  —  The 
Want  of  a  Military  Policy  —  Lincoln  and  Seward  —  How  Cabinet- 
Meetings  were  conducted  —  The  Rivalry  of  Seward  and  Chase  —  News 
of  Antietam  —  Dismissal  of  Commander  Preble  —  The  Emancipation 
Proclamation  read  to  the  Cabinet  —  Senator  John  P.  Hale  —  Chase's 
Financial  Policy  —  Chase's  Opinion  of  Stanton  —  The  Chiriqui  Scheme 

—  New  York  Politics  —  European  Efforts  to  break  the  Blockade. 

September  1,  Monday.  The  wounded  have  been  com- 
ing in  to-day  in  large  numbers.  From  what  I  can  learn, 
General  Pope's  estimate  of  the  killed  and  wounded  greatly 
exceeds  the  actual  number.  He  should,  however,  be  best 
informed,  but  he  feels  distressed  and  depressed  and  is 
greatly  given  to  exaggeration. 

Chase  tells  me  that  McClellan  sends  word  that  there 
are  twenty  thousand  stragglers  on  the  road  between  Alex- 
andria and  Centreville,  which  C.  says  is  infamously  false 
and  sent  out  for  infamous  purposes.  He  called  on  me  to- 
day with  a  more  carefully  prepared,  and  less  exceptionable, 
address  to  the  President,  stating  the  signers  did  not  deem 
it  safe  that  McClellan  should  be  intrusted  with  an  army, 
etc.,  and  that,  if  required,  the  signers  would  give  their  rea- 
sons for  the  protest  against  continuing  him  in  command. 
This  paper  was  in  the  handwriting  of  Attorney-General 
Bates.  The  former  was  in  Stanton's.  This  was  signed  by 
Stanton,  Chase,  Smith,  and  Bates.  A  space  was  left  be- 
tween the  two  last  for  Blair  and  myself;  Seward  is  not  in 
town,  and,  if  I  am  not  mistaken,  is  purposely  absent  to  be 


relieved  from  participation  in  this  movement,  which  origin- 
ates with  Stanton,  who  is  mad — perhaps  with  reason — 
and  determined  to  destroy  McClellan.  Seward  and  Stanton 
act  in  concert,  but  Seward  has  opposed  or  declined  being 
a  party  to  the  removal  of  McClellan,  until  since  Halleck 
was  brought  here,  when  Stanton  became  more  fierce  and 
determined.  Seward  then  gave  way  and  went  away.  Chase, 
who  has  become  hostile  to  McClellan,  is  credulous,  and 
sometimes  the  victim  of  intrigue;  was  taken  into  Stanton's 
confidence,  made  to  believe  that  the  opportunity  of  Sew- 
ard's  absence  should  be  improved  to  shake  off  McClel- 
lan, whom  they  both  disliked,  by  a  combined  Cabinet 
movement  to  control  the  President,  who,  until  recently, 
has  clung  to  that  officer.  It  was  not  difficult,  under  the 
prevailing  feeling  of  indignation  against  McClellan,  to  en- 
list Smith.  I  am  a  little  surprised  that  they  got  Mr.  Bates, 
though  he  has  for  some  tune  openly  urged  the  removal  of 
McClellan.  Chase  took  upon  himself  to  get  my  name,  and 
then,  if  possible,  Blair  was  to  be  brought  in.  In  all  this, 
Chase  flatters  himself  that  he  is  attaching  Stanton  to  his 
interest ;  not  but  that  he  is  himself  sincere  in  his  opposition 
to  McClellan,  who  was  once  his  favorite,  but  whom  he 
considers  a  deserter  from  his  faction  and  whom  he  now 

I  told  Chase  I  thought  this  paper  an  improvement  on 
the  document  of  Saturday;  was  less  exceptionable;  but  I 
did  not  like,  and  could  not  unite  in,  the  movement;  that 
in  a  conference  with  the  President  I  should  have  no  hesi- 
tation in  saying  or  agreeing  mainly  in  what  was  there  ex- 
pressed; for  I  am  satisfied  the  earnest  men  of  the  country 
would  not  be  willing  McClellan  should  hereafter  have  com- 
mand of  our  forces  in  the  field,  though  I  could  not  say  what 
is  the  feeling  of  the  soldiers.  Reflection  had  more  fully 
satisfied  me  that  this  method  of  conspiring  to  influence 
or  control  the  President  was  repugnant  to  my  feelings  and 
was  not  right;  it  was  unusual,  would  be  disrespectful,  and 
would  justly  be  deemed  offensive;  that  the  President  had 

102  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  1 

called  us  around  him  as  friends  and  advisers,  with  whom 
he  might  counsel  and  consult  on  all  matters  affecting  the 
public  welfare,  not  to  enter  into  combinations  to  control 
him.  Nothing  of  this  kind  had  hitherto  taken  place  in  our 
intercourse.  That  we  had  not  been  sufficiently  intimate, 
impressive,  or  formal  perhaps,  and  perhaps  not  sufficiently 
explicit  and  decisive  in  expressing  our  views  on  some 

Chase  disclaimed  any  movement  against  the  President 
and  thought  the  manner  was  respectful  and  correct.  Said 
it  was  designed  to  tell  the  President  that  the  Administra- 
tion must  be  broken  up,  or  McC.  dismissed.  The  course 
he  said  was  unusual,  but  the  case  was  unusual.  We  had,  it 
was  true,  been  too  informal  in  our  meeting.  I  had,  he  said, 
been  too  reserved  in  the  expression  of  my  views,  which  he 
did  me  the  compliment  to  say  were  sound,  etc.  Conversa- 
tions, he  said,  amounted  to  but  little  with  the  President  on 
subjects  of  this  importance.  Argument  was  useless.  It 
was  like  throwing  water  on  a  duck's  back.  A  more  decisive 
expression  must  be  made  and  that  in  writing. 

It  was  evident  there  was  a  fixed  determination  to  re- 
move, and  if  possible  to  disgrace,  McClellan.  Chase  frankly 
stated  he  desired  it,  that  he  deliberately  believed  McClel- 
lan ought  to  be  shot,  and  should,  were  he  President,  be 
brought  to  summary  punishment.  I  told  him  he  was  aware 
my  faith  in  McClellan's  energy  and  reliability  was  shaken 
nine  months  ago ;  that  as  early  as  last  December  I  had,  as 
he  would  recollect,  expressed  my  disappointment  in  the 
man  and  stated  to  him  specially,  as  the  friend  and  in- 
dorser  of  McClellan,  my  misgivings,  in  order  that  he  might 
remove  my  doubts  or  confirm  them.  McClellan's  hesitat- 
ing course  last  fall,  his  indifference  and  neglect  of  my 
many  applications  to  cooperate  with  the  Navy,  his  failure 
in  many  instances  to  fulfill  his  promises,  when  the  Rebels 
were  erecting  batteries  on  the  west  bank  of  the  Potomac, 
that  they  might  close  the  navigation  of  the  river,  had 
shaken  my  confidence  in  his  efficiency  and  reliability,  for 


he  was  not  deficient  in  sagacity  or  intelligence.  But  at 
that  time  McClellan  was  a  general  favorite,  and  neither 
he  (Chase)  nor  any  one  heeded  my  doubts  and  appre- 

A  few  weeks  after  the  navigation  of  the  river  was  first 
interrupted  by  the  Rebel  batteries  last  November,  I  made 
known  to  the  President  and  Cabinet  how  I  had  been  put 
off  by  General  McClellan  with  broken  promises  and  frivol- 
ous and  unsatisfactory  answers,  until  I  ceased  convers- 
ing with  him  on  the  subject.  To  me  it  seemed  he  had  no 
plan  or  policy  of  his  own,  or  any  realizing  sense  of  the  true 
condition  of  affairs,  —  the  Rebels  in  sight  of  us,  almost 
within  cannon-range,  Washington  beleaguered,  only  a  sin- 
gle railroad  track  to  Baltimore,  the  Potomac  about  to  be 
closed.  He  was  occupied  with  reviews  and  dress-parades, 
perhaps  with  drills  and  discipline,  but  was  regardless  of 
the  necessities  of  the  case,  —  the  political  aspect  of  the 
question,  the  effect  of  the  closing  of  the  only  avenue  from 
the  National  Capital  to  the  ocean,  and  the  embarrassment 
which  would  follow  to  the  Government  itself  were  the 
river  blockaded.  Though  deprecating  his  course  and  call- 
ing his  attention  to  it,  I  did  not  think,  as  Chase  now  says 
he  does,  and  as  I  hear  others  say  they  do,  that  he  was  im- 
becile, a  coward,  a  traitor;  but  it  was  notorious  that  he 
hesitated,  doubted,  had  not  self-reliance,  any  definite  and 
determined  plan,  or  audacity  to  act.  He  was  wanting,  in 
my  opinion,  in  several  of  the  essential  requisites  of  a  gen- 
eral in  chief  command;  in  short,  he^was  not  a  fighting 
general.  These  are  my  present  convictions.  13o~ine  state^ 
ments  of  Stanton  and  some  recent  acts  indicate  failings, 
delinquencies  of  a  more  serious  character.  The  country 
is  greatly  incensed  against  him,  but  he  has  the  confidence 
of  the  army,  I  think. 

Chase  was  disappointed,  and  I  think  a  little  chagrined, 
because  I  would  not  unite  in  the  written  demand  to  the 
President.  He  said  he  had  not  yet  asked  Blair  and  did  not 
propose  to  till  the  others  had  been  consulted.  This  does 

104  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  1 

not  look  well.  It  appears  as  if  there  was  a  combination  by 
two  to  get  their  associates  committed,  seriatim,  in  detail, 
by  a  skillful  ex  parte  movement  without  general  consulta- 

McClellan  was  first  invited  to  Washington  under  the 
auspices  of  Chase,  more  than  of  any  one  else,  though 
all  approved,  for  Scott  was  old,  infirm,  and  changeable. 
Seward  soon  had  greater  intimacy  with  McClellan  than 
Chase.  Blair,  informed  in  regard  to  the  qualities  of  army 
officers,  acquiesced  in  McClellan's  selection ;  thought  him 
intelligent  and  capable,  but  dilatory.  In  the  winter,  when 
Chase  began  to  get  alienated  from  McC.  in  consequence 
of  his  hesitancy  and  reticence,  or  both,  if  not  because  of 
greater  intimacy  with  Seward,  Blah-  seemed  to  confide 
more  in  the  General,  yet  I  do  not  think  McC.  was  a  favor- 
ite, or  that  he  grew  in  favor. 

September  2,  Tuesday.  At  Cabinet-meeting  all  but 
Seward  were  present.  I  think  there  was  design  in  his 
absence.  It  was  stated  that  Pope,  without  consultation 
or  advice,  was  falling  back,  intending  to  retreat  within  the 
Washington  intrenchments.  No  one  seems  to  have  had 
any  knowledge  of  his  movements,  or  plans,  if  he  had  any. 
Those  who  have  favored  Pope  are  disturbed  and  disap- 
pointed. Blair,  who  has  known  him  intimately,  says  he  is 
a  braggart  and  a  liar,  with  some  courage,  perhaps,  but  not 
much  capacity.  The  general  conviction  is  that  he  is  a  fail- 
ure here,  and  there  is  a  belief  and  admission  on  all  hands 
that  he  has  not  been  seconded  and  sustained  as  he  should 
have  been  by  McClellan,  Franklin,  Fitz  John  Porter,  and 
perhaps  some  others.  Personal  jealousies  and  professional 
rivalries,  the  bane  and  curse  of  all  armies,  have  entered 
deeply  into  ours. 

Stanton  said,  hi  a  suppressed  voice,  trembling  with 
excitement,  he  was  informed  McClellan  had  been  ordered 
to  take  command  of  the  forces  in  Washington.  General 
surprise  was  expressed.  When  the  President  came  in  and 

1862]  THE  OPINION  OF  POPE  105 

heard  the  subject-matter  of  our  conversation,  he  said 
he  had  done  what  seemed  to  him  best  and  would  be  re- 
sponsible for  what  he  had  done  to  the  country.  Halleck 
had  agreed  to  it.  McClellan  knows  this  whole  ground;  his 
specialty  is  to  defend;  he  is  a  good  engineer,  all  admit; 
there  is  no  better  organizer ;  he  can  be  trusted  to  act  on  the 
defensive;  but  he  is  troubled  with  the  " slows"  and  good 
for  nothing  for  an  onward  movement.  Much  was  said. 
There  was  a  more  disturbed  and  desponding  feeling  than 
I  have  ever  witnessed  in  council;  the  President  was  greatly 
distressed.  There  was  a  general  conversation  as  regarded 
the  infirmities  of  McClellan,  but  it  was  claimed,  by  Blair 
and  the  President,  he  had  beyond  any  officer  the  confidence 
of  the  army.  Though  deficient  in  the  positive  qualities 
which  are  necessary  for  an  energetic  commander,  his  or- 
ganizing powers  could  be  made  temporarily  available  till 
the  troops  were  rallied. 

These,  the  President  said,  were  General  Halleck's  views, 
as  well  as  his  own,  and  some  who  were  dissatisfied  with  his 
action,  and  had  thought  H.  was  the  man  for  General-in- 
Chief,  felt  that  there  was  nothing  to  do  but  to  acquiesce, 
yet  Chase  earnestly  and  emphatically  stated  his  convic- 
tion that  it  would  prove  a  national  calamity. 

Pope  himself  had  great  influence  in  bringing  Halleck 
here,  and  the  two,  with  Stanton  and  Chase,  got  possession 
of  McC.'s  army  and  withdrew  it  from  before  Richmond.  It 
has  been  an  unfortunate  movement.  Pope  is  denounced 
as  a  braggart,  unequal  to  the  position  assigned  him. 

Stanton  and  Halleck  are  apprehensive  that  Washington 
is  in  danger.  Am  sorry  to  see  this  fear,  for  I  do  not  believe 
it  among  remote  possibilities.  Undoubtedly,  after  the 
orders  of  Pope  to  fall  back,  and  the  discontent  and  con- 
tentions of  the  generals,  there  will  be  serious  trouble,  but 
not  such  as  to  endanger  the  Capital.  The  military  believe 
a  great  and  decisive  battle  is  to  be  fought  in  front  of  the 
city,  but  I  do  not  anticipate  it.  It  may  be  that,  retreating 
within  the  intrenchments,  our  own  generals  and  managers 

106  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  2 

have  inspired  the  Rebels  to  be  more  daring;  perhaps  they 
may  venture  to  cross  the  upper  Potomac  and  strike  at 
Baltimore,  our  railroad  communication,  or  both;  but  they 
will  not  venture  to  come  here,  where  we  are  prepared  and 
fortified  with  both  army  and  navy  to  meet  them. 

In  a  conversation  with  Commodore  Wilkes,  who  came 
up  yesterday  from  Norfolk  to  take  command  of  the  Poto- 
mac Flotilla,  consisting  now  of  twenty-five  vessels,  he  took 
occasion  to  express  his  high  appreciation  of  McClellan  as 
an  officer.  This  can  be  accounted  for  in  more  ways  than 
one.  The  two  have  been  associated  together  in  a  severe 
disappointment,  and  persuade  themselves  they  should 
have  accomplished  something  important  if  they  had  not 
been  interrupted.  I  have  no  doubt  Wilkes,  who  has  au- 
dacity, would  have  dashed  on,  and  perhaps  have  compelled 
McClellan  to  do  so,  but  with  what  prudence  and  discretion 
I  am  not  assured.  They  both  believe  they  would  have 
taken  Richmond.  I  apprehend  they  would  have  disagreed 
before  getting  there,  even  if  McClellan  could  have  been 
brought  to  the  attempt.  An  adverse  result  has  made  them 
friends  in  belief,  and  they  condemn  the  decision  which  led 
to  their  recall.  I  had  no  part  hi  that  decision.  Probably 
should  not  have  advised  the  order  had  I  been  consulted, 
although  it  may  have  been  the  proper  military  step.  But 
whether  recalled  or  not,  McC.  would  never  have  struck 
a  blow  for  Richmond,  even  under  the  impulsive  urging  of 
Wilkes,  who  is  often  inconsiderate;  and  so  strife  would  have 
arisen  between  them. 

Wilkes  says  they  would  have  captured  Richmond  on  the 
1st  inst.,  had  there  been  no  recall.  His  last  letter  to  me, 
about  the  27th,  said  they  would  have  made  an  attempt  by 
the  12th  if  let  alone.  I  have  no  doubt  that,  could  he  have 
had  the  cooperation  of  the  army,  Wilkes  would  have  struck 
a  blow;  perhaps  he  would  alone. 

September  3,  Wednesday.  Washington  is  full  of  exciting, 
vague,  and  absurd  rumors.  There  is  some  cause  for  it.  Our 

1862]    BITTER  REMARK  OF  McCLELLAN'S     107 

great  army  comes  retreating  to  the  banks  of  the  Potomac, 
driven  back  to  the  intrenchments  by  Rebels. 

The  army  has  no  head.  Halleck  is  here  in  the  Depart- 
ment, a  military  director,  not  a  general,  a  man  of  some 
scholastic  attainments,  but  without  soldierly  capacity. 
McClellan  is  an  intelligent  engineer  and  officer,  but  not 
a  commander  to  head  a  great  army  in  the  field.  To  attack 
or  advance  with  energy  and  power  is  not  in  him;  to  fight  is 
not  his  forte.  I  sometimes  fear  his  heart  is  not  earnest  in 
the  cause,  yet  I  do  not  entertain  the  thought  that  he  is 
unfaithful.  The  study  of  military  operations  interests  and 
amuses  him.  It  flatters  him  to  have  on  his  staff  French 
princes  and  men  of  wealth  and  position;  he  likes  show, 
parade,  and  power.  Wishes  to  outgeneral  the  Rebels,  but 
not  to  kill  and  destroy  them.  In  a  conversation  which  I  had 
with  him  in  May  last  at  Cumberland  on  the  Pamunkey, 
he  said  he  desired  of  all  things  to  capture  Charleston;  he 
would  demolish  and  annihilate  the  city.  He  detested,  he 
said,  both  South  Carolina  and  Massachusetts,  and  should 
rejoice  to  see  both  States  extinguished.  Both  were  and  al- 
ways had  been  ultra  and  mischievous,  and  he  could  not  tell 
which  he  hated  most.  These  were  the  remarks  of  the  Gen- 
eral-in-Chief at  the  head  of  our  armies  then  in  the  field,  and 
when  as  large  a  proportion  of  his  troops  were  from  Massa- 
chusetts as  from  any  State  in  the  Union,  while  as  large  a 
proportion  of  those  opposed,  who  were  fighting  the  Union, 
were  from  South  Carolina  as  from  any  State.  He  was  lead- 
ing the  men  of  Massachusetts  against  the  men  of  South 
Carolina,  yet  he,  the  General,  detests  them  alike. 

I  cannot  relieve  my  mind  from  the  belief  that  to  him,  hi 
a  great  degree,  and  to  his  example,  influence,  and  conduct 
are  to  be  attributed  some  portion  of  our  late  reverses,  more 
than  to  any  other  person  on  either  side.  His  reluctance  to 
move  or  have  others  move,  his  inactivity,  his  detention  of 
Franklin,  his  omission  to  send  forward  supplies  unless  Pope 
would  send  a  cavalry  escort  from  the  battle-field,  and  the 
tone  of  his  conversation  and  dispatches,  all  show  a  moody 

108  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  3 

state  of  feeling.  The  slight  upon  him  and  the  generals  asso- 
ciated with  him,  in  the  selection  of  Pope,  was  injudicious, 
impolitic,  wrong  perhaps,  but  is  no  justification  for  their 
withholding  one  tithe  of  strength  in  a  great  emergency, 
where  the  lives  of  their  countrymen  and  the  welfare  of  the 
country  were  in  danger.  The  soldiers  whom  McClellan  has 
commanded  are  doubtless  attached  to  him.  They  have  been 
trained  to  it,  and  he  has  kindly  cared  for  them  while  under 
him.  With  partiality  for  him  thay  have  imbibed  his  pre- 
judices, and  some  of  the  officers  have,  I  fear,  a  spirit  more 
factious  and  personal  than  patriotic.  I  have  thought  they 
might  have  reason  to  complain,  at  the  proper  time  and 
place,  but  not  on  the  field  of  battle,  that  a  young  officer 
of  no  high  reputation  should  be  brought  from  a  Western 
Department  and  placed  over  them.  Stanton,  in  his  hate 
of  McC.,  has  aggrieved  other  officers. 

The  introduction  of  Pope  here,  followed  by  Halleck,  is  an 
intrigue  of  Stanton's  and  Chase's  to  get  rid  of  McClellan. 
A  part  of  this  intrigue  has  been  the  withdrawal  of  McClel- 
lan and  the  Army  of  the  Potomac  from  before  Richmond 
and  turning  it  into  the  Army  of  Washington  under  Pope. 

Chase,  who  made  himself  as  busy  in  the  management  of 
the  army  as  the  Treasury,  said  to  the  President  one  day  in 
my  presence,  when  we  were  looking  over  the  maps  on  the 
table  in  the  War  Department,  that  the  whole  movement 
upon  Richmond  by  the  York  River  was  wrong,  that  we 
should  accomplish  nothing  until  the  army  was  recalled  and 
Washington  was  made  the  base  of  operations  for  an  over- 
land march.  McClellan  had  all  the  troops  with  him,  and 
the  Capital  was  exposed  to  any  sudden  blow  from  the 
Rebels.  "What  would  you  do?"  said  the  President. 
"  Order  McClellan  to  return  and  start  right,"  replied  Chase, 
putting  his  finger  on  the  map,  and  pointing  the  course  to  be 
taken  across  the  country.  Pope,  who  was  present,  said, 
"If  Halleck  were  here,  you  would  have,  Mr.  President, 
a  competent  adviser  who  would  put  this  matter  right." 

The  President,  without  consulting  any  one,  went  about 

1862]   HALLECK'S  CALL  TO   WASHINGTON    109 

this  time  on  a  hasty  visit  to  West  Point,  where  he  had 
a  brief  interview  with  General  Scott,  and  immediately 
returned.  A  few  days  thereafter  General  Halleck  was 
detached  from  the  Western  Department  and  ordered  to 
Washington,  where  he  was  placed  in  position  as  General- 
in-Chief,  and  McClellan  and  the  Army  of  the  Potomac,  on 
Halleck's  recommendation,  first  proposed  by  Chase,  were 
recalled  from  in  the  vicinity  of  Richmond. 

The  defeat  of  Pope  and  placing  McC.  in  command  of  the 
retreating  and  disorganized  forces  after  the  second  disaster 
at  Bull  Run  interrupted  the  intrigue  which  had  been 
planned  for  the  dismissal  of  McClellan,  and  was  not  only  a 
triumph  for  him  but  a  severe  mortification  and  disappoint- 
ment for  both  Stanton  and  Chase. 

September  4,  Thursday.  City  full  of  rumors  and  but  little 
truth  in  any  of  them. 

Wilkes  laid  before  me  his  plan  for  organizing  the  Poto- 
mac Flotilla.  It  is  systematic  and  exhibits  capacity. 

Something  energetic  must  be  done  in  regard  to  the 
suspected  privateers  which,  with  the  connivance  of  British 
authorities,  are  being  sent  out  to  depredate  on  our  com- 
merce. We  hear  that  our  new  steamer,  the  Adirondack,  is 
wrecked.  She  had  been  sent  to  watch  the  Bahama  Channel. 
Her  loss,  the  discharge  of  the  Oreto  by  the  courts  of  Nas- 
sau, and  the  arrival  of  Steamer  290,  *  both  piratical  British 
wolves,  demand  attention,  although  we  have  no  vessels  to 
spare  from  the  blockade.  Must  organize  a  flying  squadron, 
as  has  been  suggested,  and  put  Wilkes  in  command.  Both 
the  President  and  Seward  request  he  should  go  on  this 

k  When  with  the  President  this  A.M.,  heard  Pope  read  his 
statement  of  what  had  taken  place  in  Virginia  during  the 
last  few  weeks,  commencing  at  or  before  the  battle  of  Cedar 
Mountain.  It  was  not  exactly  a  bulletin  nor  a  report,  but 
a  manifesto,  a  narrative,  tinged  with  wounded  pride  and 
1  The  cruiser  Alabama. 

110  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  4 

a  keen  sense  of  injustice  and  wrong.  The  draft,  he  said,  was 
rough.  It  certainly  needs  modifying  before  it  goes  out,  or 
there  will  be  war  among  the  generals,  who  are  now  more 
ready  to  fight  each  other  than  the  enemy.  No  one  was 
present  but  the  President,  Pope,  and  myself.  I  remained 
by  special  request  of  both  to  hear  the  report  read.  Seward 
came  in  for  a  moment,  but  immediately  left.  He  shuns  these 
controversies  and  all  subjects  where  he  is  liable  to  become 
personally  involved.  I  have  no  doubt  Stanton  and  Chase 
have  seen  the  paper,  and  Seward,  through  Stanton,  knows 
its  character. 

Pope  and  I  left  together  and  walked  to  the  Departments. 
He  declares  all  his  misfortunes  are  owing  to  the  persistent 
determination  of  McClellan,  Franklin,  and  Porter,  aided 
by  Ricketts,  Griffin,  and  some  others  who  were  prede- 
termined he  should  not  be  successful.  They  preferred, 
he  said,  that  the  country  should  be  ruined  rather  than  he 
should  triumph. 

September  5,  Friday.  We  have  a  report  this  morning 
that  the  Rebels  have  crossed  the  Potomac  at  Edwards 
Ferry,  but  the  War  Department  says  the  report  wants 
confirmation  and  that  we  have  no  stragglers  from  there,  as 
we  should  have  if  the  rumors  were  true. 

Wilkes  claims  that  he  ought  to  have  the  position  of  Act- 
ing Admiral.  There  is  reason  in  his  claim,  though  some  are 
opposed  to  it.  He  is  not  in  favor  with  his  professional 
brethren,  has  given  great  trouble  and  annoyance  to  the 
Department  heretofore  and  will  be  likely  to  give  us  more 
trouble,  but  I  believe  it  best  to  give  him  under  the  circum- 
stances the  position  with  the  squadron. 

The  question  of  publishing  the  report  of  General  Pope 
was  before  us.  Some  little  discussion  took  place.  I  did  not 
consider  it  strictly  a  report,  for  it  was  not  accompanied  by 
the  reports  of  the  other  officers,  or  any  statistics  of  killed, 
wounded,  losses,  or  captures,  but  a  statement  from  an 

1862]          THE  ARMY  FOR  McCLELLAN  111 

officer  in  command,  who  felt  himself  aggrieved  and  who 
expressed  himself  in  a  manner  to  give  offense.  Much  was 
said,  and  all  concurred  or  acquiesced  in  non-publication  for 
the  present,  especially  as  there  is  to  be  an  inquiry  into  the 
subject-matter  reported  upon. 

There  is  a  good  deal  of  demoralization  in  the  army; 
officers  and  soldiers  are  infected. 

September  6,  Saturday.  We  have  information  that  the 
Rebels  have  crossed  the  Potomac  in  considerable  force, 
with  a  view  of  invading  Maryland  and  pushing  on  into 
Pennsylvania.  The  War  Department  is  bewildered,  knows 
but  little,  does  nothing,  proposes  nothing. 

Our  army  is  passing  north.  This  evening  some  twenty 
or  thirty  thousand  passed  my  house  within  three  hours. 
There  was  design  in  having  them  come  up  from  Pennsyl- 
vania Avenue  to  H  Street,  and  pass  by  McClellan's  house, 
which  is  at  the  corner  of  H  and  15th.  They  cheered  the 
General  lustily,  instead  of  passing  by  the  White  House  and 
honoring  the  President. 

Have  unpleasant  information  concerning  privateers, 
which  are  getting  abroad  by  connivance  of  the  British  au- 
thorities. Am  trying  to  get  Wilkes  off  as  speedily  as  possi- 
ble. Wrote  out  his  orders  and  instructions  this  evening  to 
cruise  with  a  squadron  in  the  Bahamas  and  West  Indies  for 
certain  vessels  of  no  recognized  nationality  that  were  pre- 
paring to  prey  on  our  commerce.  Will  get  them  copied  and 
in  his  hands  on  Monday.  As  an  additional  hint,  told  him 
to-day  I  wished  he  could  get  off  on  Monday. 

McClellan  and  his  partisans  have  ascendency  in  the 
army,  but  he  has  lost  ground  in  the  confidence  of  the  coun- 
try, chiefly  from  delays,  or  what  the  President  aptly  terms 
the  "slows." 

September  7.  The  report  prevalent  yesterday  that  the 
Rebels  had  crossed  the  upper  Potomac  at  or  near  the  Point 
of  Rocks  is  confirmed,  and  it  is  pretty  authentic  that  large 
reinforcements  have  since  been  added. 

112  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  7 

Found  Chase  in  Secretary's  room  at  the  War  Depart- 
ment with  D.  D.  Field.  No  others  present.  Some  talk 
about  naval  matters.  Field  censorious  and  uncomfortable. 
General  Pope  soon  came  in  but  stayed  only  a  moment. 
Was  angry  and  vehement.  He  and  Chase  had  a  brief  con- 
versation apart,  when  he  returned  to  Stanton's  room. 

When  I  started  to  come  away,  Chase  followed,  and  after 
we  came  down  stairs  asked  me  to  walk  with  him  to  the 
President's.  As  we  crossed  the  lawn,  he  said  with  emotion 
everything  was  going  wrong.  He  feared  the  country  was 
ruined.  McClellan  was  having  everything  his  own  way,  as 
he  (Chase)  anticipated  he  would  if  decisive  measures  were 
not  promptly  taken  for  his  dismissal.  It  was  a  reward  for 
perfidy.  My  refusal  to  sign  the  paper  he  had  prepared  was 
fraught  with  great  evil  to  the  country.  I  replied  that  I 
viewed  that  matter  differently.  My  estimate  of  McClellan 
was  in  some  respects  different  from  his.  I  agreed  he  wanted 
decision,  that  he  hesitated  to  strike,  had  also  behaved 
badly  in  the  late  trouble,  but  I  did  not  believe  he  was  un- 
faithful and  destitute  of  patriotism.  But  aside  from  Mc- 
Clellan, and  the  fact  that  it  would,  with  the  feeling  which 
pervaded  the  army,  have  been  an  impolitic  step  to  dismiss 
him,  the  proposed  combination  in  the  Cabinet  would  have 
been  inexcusably  wrong  to  the  President.  We  had  seen  the 
view  which  the  President  took  of  the  matter  and  how  he 
felt  at  the  meeting  of  the  Cabinet  on  Tuesday. 

From  what  I  have  seen  and  heard  within  the  last  few 
days,  the  more  highly  do  I  appreciate  the  President's  judg- 
ment and  sagacity  in  the  stand  he  made,  and  the  course  he 
took.  Stanton  has  carried  his  dislike  or  hatred  of  McC.  to 
great  lengths,  and  from  free  intercourse  with  Chase  has 
enlisted  him,  and  to  some  extent  influenced  all  of  us  against 
that  officer,  who  has  failings  enough  of  his  own  to  bear  with- 
out the  addition  of  Stanton's  enmity  to  his  own  infirm- 
ities. Seward,  in  whom  McC.  has  confided  more  than  any 
member  of  the  Administration,  from  the  common  belief 
that  Seward  was  supreme,  yielded  to  Stanton's  malignant 


feelings,  and  yet,  not  willing  to  encounter  that  officer,  he 
went  off  to  Auburn,  expecting  the  General  would  be  dis- 
posed of  whilst  he  was  away.  The  President,  who,  like  the 
rest  of  us,  has  seen  and  felt  McClellan's  deficiencies  and 
has  heard  Stanton's  and  Halleck's  complaints  more  than 
we  have,  finally,  and  I  think  not  unwillingly,  consented  to 
bring  Pope  here  in  front  of  Washington;  was  also  further 
persuaded  by  Stanton  and  Chase  to  recall  the  army  from 
Richmond  and  turn  the  troops  over  to  Pope.  Most  of  this 
originated,  and  has  been  matured,  in  the  War  Depart- 
ment, Stanton  and  Chase  being  the  pioneers,  Halleck  as- 
senting, the  President  and  Seward  under  stress  of  McClel- 
lan's disease  "the  slows,"  and  with  the  reverses  before 
Richmond,  falling  in  with  the  idea  that  a  change  of  com- 
manders and  a  change  of  base  was  necessary.  The  recall  of 
the  army  from  the  vicinity  of  Richmond  I  thought  wrong, 
and  I  know  it  was  in  opposition  to  the  opinion  of  some  of 
the  best  military  men  in  the  service.  Placing  Pope  over 
them  roused  the  indignation  of  many.  But  in  this  Stanton 
had  a  purpose  to  accomplish,  and  in  bringing  first  Pope 
here,  then  by  Pope's  assistance  and  General  Scott's  advice 
bringing  Halleck,  and  concerting  measures  which  followed, 
he  succeeded  in  breaking  down  and  displacing  McClellan, 
but  not  in  dismissing  and  disgracing  him.  This  the  Pre- 
sident would  not  do  or  permit  to  be  done,  though  he  was 
more  offended  with  McC.  than  he  ever  was  before.  In  a 
brief  conversation  with  him  as  we  were  walking  together  on 
Friday,  the  President  said  with  much  emphasis:  "I  must 
have  McClellan  to  reorganize  the  army  and  bring  it  out  of 
chaos,  but  there  has  been  a  design,  a  purpose  in  breaking 
down  Pope,  without  regard  of  consequences  to  the  country. 
It  is  shocking  to  see  and  know  this;  but  there  is  no  remedy 
at  present,  McClellan  has  the  army  with  him." 

My  convictions  are  with  the  President  that  McClellan 
and  his  generals  are  this  day  stronger  than  the  Administra- 
tion with  a  considerable  portion  of  this  Army  of  the  Poto- 
mac. It  is  not  so  elsewhere  with  the  soldiers,  or  in  the 

114  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [SEPT.  7 

country,  where  McClellan  has  lost  favor.  The  people  are 
disappointed  in  him,  but  his  leading  generals  have  con- 
trived to  strengthen  him  in  the  hearts  of  the  soldiers  in 
front  of  Washington. 

Chase  and  myself  found  the  President  alone  this  Sunday 
morning.  We  canvassed  fully  the  condition  of  the  army 
and  country.  Chase  took  an  early  opportunity,  since  the 
report  of  Pope  was  suppressed,  to  urge  upon  the  President 
the  propriety  of  some  announcement  of  the  facts  connected 
with  the  recent  battles.  It  was,  he  said,  due  to  the  country 
and  also  to  Pope  and  McDowell.  I  at  once  comprehended 
why  Chase  had  invited  me  to  accompany  him  in  this  visit. 
It  was  that  it  might  appear  that  we  were  united  on  this 
mission.  I  therefore  promptly  stated  that  this  was  the  first 
time  I  had  heard  the  subject  broached.  At  a  proper  time, 
it  seemed  to  me,  there  would  be  propriety  in  presenting  a 
fair,  unprejudiced,  and  truthful  statement  of  late  disasters. 
The  country  craved  to  know  the  facts,  but  the  question 
was,  Could  we  just  now  with  prudence  give  them?  Dis- 
closing might  lead  to  discord  and  impair  the  efficiency  of 
the  officers.  The  President  spoke  favorably  of  Pope,  and 
thought  he  would  have  something  prepared  for  publication 
by  Halleck. 

When  taking  a  walk  this  Sunday  evening  with  my  son 
Edgar,  we  met  on  Pennsylvania  Avenue,  near  the  junction 
of  H  Street,  what  I  thought  at  first  sight  a  squad  of  cav- 
alry or  mounted  men,  some  twenty  or  thirty  in  number. 
I  remarked  as  they  approached  that  they  seemed  better 
mounted  than  usual,  but  E.  said  the  cavalcade  was  General 
McClellan  and  his  staff.  I  raised  my  hand  to  salute  him  as 
they  were  dashing  past,  but  the  General,  recognizing  us, 
halted  the  troop  and  rode  up  to  me  by  the  sidewalk,  to 
shake  hands,  he  said,  and  bid  me  farewell.  I  asked  which 
way.  He  said  he  was  proceeding  to  take  command  of  the 
onward  movement.  "Then,"  I  added,  "you  go  up  the 
river."  He  said  yes,  he  had  just  started  to  take  charge  of 
the  army  and  of  the  operations  above.  "Well,"  said  I, 

1862]  A  FORWARD  MOVEMENT  115 

"  on  ward,  General,  is  now  the  word;  the  country  will  ex- 
pect you  to  go  forward."  "That,"  he  answered,  "is  my 
intention."  "Success  to  you,  then,  General,  with  all  my 
heart."  With  a  mutual  farewell  we  parted. 

This  was  our  first  meeting  since  we  parted  at  Cumber- 
land on  the  Pamunkey  in  June,  for  we  each  had  been  so 
occupied  during  the  three  or  four  days  he  had  been  in 
Washington  that  we  had  made  no  calls.  On  several  occa- 
sions we  missed  each  other.  In  fact,  I  had  no  particular 
desire  to  fall  in  with  any  of  the  officers  who  had  contributed 
to  the  disasters  that  had  befallen  us,  or  who  had  in  any 
respect  failed  to  do  their  whole  duty  in  this  great  crisis. 
While  McClellan  may  have  had  some  cause  to  be  offended 
with  Pope,  he  has  no  right  to  permit  his  personal  resent- 
ments to  inflict  injury  upon  the  country.  I  may  do  him 
injustice,  but  I  think  his  management  has  been  generally 
unfortunate,  to  say  the  least,  and  culpably  wrong  since  his 
return  from  the  Peninsula. 

He  has  now  been  placed  in  a  position  where  he  may  re- 
trieve himself,  and  return  to  Washington  a  victor  in  tri- 
umph, or  he  may,  as  he  has  from  the  beginning,  wilt  away 
in  tame  delays  and  criminal  inaction.  I  would  not  have 
given  him  the  command,  nor  have  advised  it,  strong  as  he  is 
with  the  army,  had  I  been  consulted;  and  I  feel  sad  that  he 
has  been  so  intrusted.  It  may,  however,  be  for  the  best. 
There  are  difficulties  in  the  matter  that  can  scarcely  be  ap- 
preciated by  those  who  do  not  know  all  the  circumstances. 
The  army  is,  I  fear,  much  demoralized,  and  its  demoraliza- 
tion is  much  of  it  to  be  attributed  to  the  officers  whose 
highest  duty  it  is  to  prevent  it.  To  have  placed  any  other 
general  than  McClellan,  or  one  of  his  circle,  in  command 
would  be  to  risk  disaster.  It  is  painful  to  entertain  the 
idea  that  the  country  is  hi  the  hands  of  such  men.  I  hope 
I  mistake  them. 

September  8,  Monday.  Less  sensation  and  fewer  rumors 
than  we  have  had  for  several  days. 

116  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [SEPT.  8 

The  President  called  on  me  to  know  what  we  had  authen- 
tic of  the  destruction  of  the  Rebel  steamer  in  Savannah 
River.  He  expressed  himself  very  decidedly  concerning  the 
management  or  mismanagement  of  the  army.  Said,  "We 
had  the  enemy  in  the  hollow  of  our  hands  on  Friday,  if  our 
generals,  who  are  vexed  with  Pope,  had  done  their  duty;  all 
of  our  present  difficulties  and  reverses  have  been  brought 
upon  us  by  these  quarrels  of  the  generals."  These  were,  I 
think,  his  very  words.  While  we  were  conversing,  Collector 
Barney  of  New  York  came  in.  The  President  said,  perhaps 
before  B.  came,  that  Halleck  had  turned  to  McClellan  and 
advised  that  he  should  command  the  troops  against  the 
Maryland  invasion.  "I  could  not  have  done  it,"  said  he, 
"for  I  can  never  feel  confident  that  he  will  do  anything 
effectual."  He  went  on,  freely  commenting  and  repeating 
some  things  said  before  B.  joined  us.  Of  Pope  he  spoke  in 
complimentary  terms  as  brave,  patriotic,  and  as  having 
done  his  duty  in  every  respect  in  Virginia,  to  the  entire 
satisfaction  of  himself  and  Halleck,  who .  both  knew  and 
watched,  day  and  night,  every  movement.  On  only  one 
point  had  Halleck  doubted  any  order  P.  had  given;  that 
was  in  directing  one  division,  I  think  Heintzelman's,  to 
march  for  the  Chain  Bridge,  by  which  the  flanks  of  that 
division  were  exposed.  When  that  order  reached  him  by 
telegraph,  Halleck  was  uneasy,  for  he  could  not  counter- 
mand it  in  season,  because  the  dispatch  would  have  to  go 
part  of  the  way  by  courier.  However,  all  went  off  without 
disaster;  the  division  was  not  attacked.  Pope,  said  the 
President,  did  well,  but  there  was  here  an  army  prejudice 
against  him,  and  it  was  necessary  he  should  leave.  He  had 
gone  off  very  angry,  and  not  without  cause,  but  circum- 
stances controlled  us. 

Barney  said  he  had  mingled  with  all  descriptions  of  per- 
sons, and  particularly  with  men  connected  with  the  army, 
and  perhaps  could  speak  from  actual  knowledge  of  public 
sentiment  better  than  either  of  us.  He  was  positive  that  no 
one  but  McClellan  could  do  anything  just  now  with  this 

1862]       DISCUSSION  OF  THE   GENERALS        117 

army.  He  had  managed  to  get  its  confidence,  and  he 
meant  to  keep  it,  and  use  it  for  his  own  purposes.  Barney 
proceeded  to  disclose  a  conversation  he  had  with  Barlow 
some  months  since.  Barlow,  a  prominent  Democratic 
lawyer  and  politician  of  New  York,  had  been  to  Washing- 
ton to  attend  one  of  McClellan's  grand  reviews  when  he  lay 
here  inactive  on  the  Potomac.  McClellan  had  specially 
invited  Barlow  to  be  present,  and  during  this  visit  opened 
his  mind,  said  he  did  not  wish  the  Presidency,  would 
rather  have  his  place  at  the  head  of  the  army,  etc.,  etc., 
intimating  he  had  no  political  views  or  aspirations.  All 
with  him  was  military,  and  he  had  no  particular  desire  to 
close  this  war  immediately,  but  would  pursue  a  line  of 
policy  of  his  own,  regardless  of  the  Administration,  its 
wishes  and  objects. 

The  combination  against  Pope  was,  Barney  says,  part  of 
the  plan  carried  out,  and  the  worst  feature  to  him  was  the 
great  demoralization  of  his  soldiers.  They  were  becoming 
reckless  and  untamable.  In  these  remarks  the  President 
concurred,  and  said  he  was  shocked  to  find  that  of  140,000 
whom  we  were  paying  for  in  Pope's  army  only  60,000  could 
be  found.  McClellan  brought  away  93,000  from  the  Penin- 
sula, but  could  not  to-day  count  on  over  45,000.  As  re- 
garded demoralization,  the  President  said,  there  was  no 
doubt  that  some  of  our  men  permitted  themselves  to  be 
captured  in  order  that  they  might  leave  on  parole,  get  dis- 
charged, and  go  home.  Where  there  is  such  rottenness,  is 
there  not  reason  to  fear  for  the  country? 

Barney  further  remarked  that  some  very  reliable  men 
were  becoming  discouraged,  and  instanced  Cassius  M.  Clay, 
who  was  advocating  an  armistice  and  terms  of  separation 
or  of  compromise  with  the  Rebels.  The  President  doubted 
if  Clay  had  been  rightly  understood,  for  he  had  had  a  full 
and  free  talk  with  him,  when  he  said  had  we  been  success- 
ful we  could  have  had  it  in  our  power  to  offer  terms. 

In  a  conversation  this  morning  with  Chase,  he  said  it 
was  a  doubtful  matter  whether  my  declining  to  sign  the 

118  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [SEPT.  8 

paper  against  McClellan  was  productive  of  good  or  harm. 
If  I  had  done  it,  he  said,  McClellan  would  have  been  dis- 
posed of  and  not  now  hi  command,  but  the  condition  of  the 
army  was  such  under  his  long  manipulation  that  it  might 
have  been  hazardous  at  this  juncture  to  have  dismissed 
him.  I  assured  him  I  had  seen  no  moment  yet  when  I  re- 
gretted my  decision,  and  my  opinion  of  McClellan  had 
undergone  no  change.  He  has  military  acquirements  and 
capacity,  dash,  but  has  not  audacity,  lacks  decision,  de- 
lays, hesitates,  vacillates;  will,  I  fear,  persist  in  delays  and 
inaction  and  do  nothing  affirmative.  His  conduct  during 
late  events  aggravates  his  indecision  and  is  wholly  unjusti- 
fiable and  inexcusable. 

But  I  will  not  prophesy  what  he  will  do  in  his  present 
command.  He  has  a  great  opportunity,  and  I  hope  and 
pray  he  may  improve  it.  The  President  says  truly  he  has 
the  "  slows,"  but  he  can  gather  the  army  together  better 
than  any  other  man.  Let  us  give  him  credit  when  he  de- 
serves it. 

September  10,  Wednesday.  Colonel  Marston  of  New 
Hampshire,  who  has  been  with  the  Army  of  the  Potomac 
for  a  year,  called  on  me  to-day.  Says  he  has  no  confidence 
in  McClellan  as  a  general;  thinks  him  neither  brave  nor 
capable;  expresses  distrust  of  the  integrity  and  patriotism 
of  other  generals  also.  Marston  is  not  a  brilliant  or  great 
man,  nor  perhaps  a  very  competent  military  critic  to  judge 
of  the  higher  qualifications  of  his  superiors;  but  he  is  polit- 
ically patriotic,  and  gives  the  opinion  of  others  with  whom 
he  associates  as  well  as  his  own. 

Senator  Wilson,  who  is  by  nature  suspicious  and  sensa- 
tional, tells  me  there  is  a  conspiracy  on  foot  among  certain 
generals  for  a  revolution  and  the  establishment  of  a  pro- 
visional national  government.  Has  obtained  important 
information  from  one  of  McC.'s  staff.  Wilson  is  doubtless 
sincere  in  all  this,  but,  being  on  the  military  committee,  is 
influenced  by  Stanton,  who  is  mad  with  the  army  and 

1862]  RUMORS   OF  REVOLUTION  119 

officers  who  stand  by  McClellan.  There  may  have  been 
random  talk  and  speculation  among  military  men  when 
idle  in  camp,  but  there  is  nothing  serious  or  intentional  in 
then-  loose  remarks.  They  and  the  soldiers  are  citizens. 
The  government  and  country  is  theirs  as  well  as  ours. 

Secretary  Smith  says  he  has  heard  of  these  movements. 
Imputes  misfortune  and  mismanagement  to  one  (Seward) 
who  has  the  ear  of  the  President  and  misadvises  and  mis- 
leads him. 

H.  H.  Elliott,  Chairman  of  the  Prize  Commission  in  New 
York,  writes  me  that  the  public  mind  there  is  highly  ex- 
cited and  on  the  eve  of  revolution.  There  is,  undoubtedly, 
a  bad  state  of  things  in  New  York,  and  he  is  surrounded  by 
that  class  of  Democratic  partisans  whose  sympathies  and 
associations  were  with  the  Rebels,  and  who  are  still  party 
opponents  of  the  Administration. 

There  are  muttering  denunciations  on  every  side,  and  if 
McClellan  fails  to  whip  the  Rebels  hi  Maryland,  the  wrath 
and  indignation  against  him  and  the  Administration  will 
be  great  and  unrestrained.  If  he  succeeds,  there  will  be 
instant  relief,  and  a  willing  disposition  to  excuse  alleged 
errors  which  ought  to  be  investigated. 

General  Halleck  is  nominally  General-in-Chief  and  dis- 
charging many  of  the  important  functions  of  the  War  De- 
partment. I  have  as  yet  no  intimacy  with  him  and  have 
seen  but  little  of  him.  He  has  a  scholarly  intellect  and, 
I  suppose,  some  military  acquirements,  but  his  mind  is 
heavy  and  irresolute.  It  appears  to  me  he  does  not  possess 
originality  and  that  he  has  little  real  military  talent.  What 
he  has  is  educational.  He  is  here,  and  came  from  the  West, 
the  friend  of  Pope,  and  is  in  some  degree  indebted  to  Pope 
for  his  position.  Both  were  introduced  here  by  an  intrigue 
of  the  War  and  Treasury  with  the  design  of  ultimately 
displacing  McClellan,  to  whom  the  President  has  adhered 
with  tenacity,  and  from  whom  Stanton  alone  and  un- 
assisted could  not  alienate  him.  The  President  was 
distressed  by  McClellan's  tardy  movements  and  failure 

120  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES     [SEPT.  10 

before  Richmond,  but  did  not  understand  the  object  which 
the  Secretary  of  War,  seconded  by  Chase,  had  in  view,  nor 
perhaps  did  either  of  the  two  generals,  Pope  and  Halleck, 
whose  capabilities  were  wonderfully  magnified  by  Stanton, 
when  ordered  here.  Pope  is  a  connection  of  Mrs.  Lincoln 
and  was  somewhat  intimate  with  the  President,  with 
whom  he  came  to  Washington  hi  1861.  There  were  some 
wonderful  military  operations  on  the  Mississippi  and  at 
Corinth  reported  of  him  just  before  he  was  ordered  here, 
and  which  led  to  it,  that  have  not  somehow  been  fully  sub- 
stantiated. Admiral  Foote  used  to  laugh  at  the  gasconade 
and  bluster  of  Pope.  Halleck,  Foote  insisted,  was  a  mili- 
tary imbecile,  though  he  might  make  a  good  clerk.  Pope 
was  first  brought  here,  and  soon  began  to  second  Stanton 
by  sounding  the  praises  of  Halleck.  On  one  or  two  occa- 
sions I  heard  him  express  his  admiration  of  the  extraor- 
dinary capacity  of  Halleck  and  his  wish  that  H.  could  be  on 
this  field,  where  his  great  abilities  would  comprehend  and 
successfully  direct  military  operations.  Stanton  would  on 
these  occasions  back  Pope  so  far  as  to  hope  there  could  be 
some  change.  The  President  listened,  was  influenced,  and 
finally  went  to  West  Point  and  saw  General  Scott.  Chase 
had  in  the  mean  time  abandoned  McClellan,  and  I  well 
remember  the  vehement  earnestness  with  which,  on  one 
occasion  when  we  were  examining  the  maps  and  criticizing 
operations  before  Richmond,  he  maintained  with  emphasis 
we  had  begun  wrong,  and  could  have  no  success  until  the 
army  was  brought  back  here,  and  we  started  from  this 
point  to  reach  the  James  River. 

How  far  Halleck  was  assenting  to  or  committed  to 
Stanton's  implacable  hostility  to  McClellan,  or  whether  he 
was  aware  of  its  extent  before  he  came  here,  I  cannot  say. 
Shortly  after  he  arrived  I  saw  that  he  partook  of  the  views 
of  Stanton  and  Chase.  By  direction  of  the  President  he 
visited  the  army  on  the  James  and  became  a  partner  to  the 
scheme  for  the  recall  of  the  troops.  This  recall  or  with- 
drawal he  pronounced  one  of  the  most  difficult  things  to 


1862]  AN  ESTIMATE  OF  HALLECK  121 

achieve  successfully  that  an  accomplished  commander 
could  execute.  The  movement  was  effected  successfully, 
but  I  did  not  perceive  that  the  country  was  indebted  to 
General  Halleck  in  the  least  for  that  success.  The  whole 
thing  at  Headquarters  was  slovenly  managed.  I  know  that 
the  Navy,  which  was  in  the  James  River  cooperating  with 
the  army,  was  utterly  neglected  by  Halleck.  Stanton, 
when  I  made  inquiry,  said  the  order  to  bring  back  the 
army  was  not  his,  and  he  was  not  responsible  for  that  neg- 
lect. I  first  learned  of  the  order  recalling  the  army,  not 
from  the  General-in-Chief  or  the  War  Department,  but 
from  Wilkes,  who  was  left  upon  the  upper  waters  of  the 
James  without  orders  and  a  cooperating  army.  When  I 
called  on  Halleck,  with  Wilkes's  letter,  he  seemed  stupid, 
said  there  was  no  further  use  for  the  Navy,  supposed  I  had 
been  advised  by  the  Secretary  of  War.  When  I  suggested 
that  it  appeared  to  me  important  that  the  naval  force 
should  remain,  with  perhaps  a  small  number  of  troops  to 
menace  Richmond,  he  rubbed  his  elbow  first,  as  if  that  was 
the  seat  of  thought,  and  then  his  eyes,  and  said  he  wished 
the  Navy  would  hold  on  for  a  few  days  to  embarrass  the 
Rebels,  but  he  had  ordered  all  the  troops  to  return.  I 
questioned  then,  and  do  now,  the  wisdom  of  recalling  Mc- 
Clellan  and  the  army;  have  doubted  if  H.,  unprompted, 
would  himself  have  done  it.  It  was  a  specimen  of  Chase's 
and  Stanton's  tactics.  They  had  impressed  the  President 
with  their  ideas  that  a  change  of  base  was  necessary.  The 
President  had,  at  the  beginning,  questioned  the  move- 
ment on  Richmond  by  way  of  the  Peninsula,  but  Blair  had 
favored  it. 

Pope  having  been  put  hi  command  of  the  army  in  front 
of  Washington,  it  was  not  difficult  to  reinforce  him  with 
McClellan's  men.  Stanton,  intriguing  against  that  officer, 
wanted  to  exclude  him  from  command.  Chase  seconded 
the  scheme,  but,  fearing  the  influence  of  McClellan  with 
the  President  and  the  other  generals  and  the  army,  the 
plan  of  his  dismissal  at  the  instigation  of  the  Cabinet  was 

122  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES     [SEPT.  10 

projected.  McClellan,  by  an  unwise  political  letter,  when 
his  duty  was  military,  weakened  himself  and  strengthened 
his  enemies.  Events  must  have  convinced  him  that  there 
was  an  intrigue  against  him,  that  he  was  in  disfavor.  Per- 
haps he  was  conscious  that  he  had  failed  to  come  up  to  pub- 
lic expectation  and  do  his  whole  duty.  He  certainly  com- 
mitted the  great  error,  if  not  crime,  after  Halleck's  appoint- 
ment and  his  recall,  of  remaining  supine,  inactive,  at  Alex- 
andria while  the  great  battle  was  going  on  in  front;  and  he 
imparted  his  own  disaffected  feelings  to  his  subordinates. 

Halleck,  destitute  of  originality,  bewildered  by  the  con- 
duct of  McClellan  and  his  generals,  without  military  re- 
sources, could  devise  nothing  and  knew  not  what  to  advise 
or  do  after  Pope's  discomfiture.  He  saw  that  the  dissatis- 
fied generals  triumphed  in  Pope's  defeat,  that  Pope  and 
the  faction  that  Stanton  controlled  against  McClellan  were 
unequal  to  the  task  they  were  expected  to  perform,  and, 
distrustful  of  himself ,  Halleck,  without  consulting  Stanton, 
assented  to  the  President's  suggestion  of  reinstating  Mc- 
Clellan in  the  intrenchments  to  reorganize  the  shattered 
forces;  and  subsequently  recommended  giving  him  again 
the  command  of  the  consolidated  armies  of  Washington 
and  the  Potomac. 

The  President  assured  me  that  this  appointment  of 
McClellan  to  command  the  united  forces  and  the  onward 
movement  was  Halleck's  doings.  He  spoke  of  it  in  justi- 
fication of  the  act.  I  was  sorry  he  should  permit  General  H. 
to  select  the  commander  in  such  a  case  if  against  his  own 
judgment.  But  the  same  causes  which  influenced  H.  prob- 
ably had  some  effect  on  the  President,  and  Stanton,  disap- 
pointed and  vexed,  beheld  his  plans  miscarry  and  felt  that 
his  resentments  were  impotent,  at  least  for  a  tune. 

September  1 1 ,  Thursday.  I  find  it  difficult  to  hurry  Wilkes 
off  with  his  command.  The  public,  especially  the  com- 
mercial community,  are  impatient;  but  Wilkes,  like  many 
officers,  having  got  position,  likes  to  exhibit  himself  and 

1862]          PANIC-STRICKEN  NEW  YORK          123 

snuff  incense.  He  assumed  great  credit  for  promptness, 
and  has  sometimes  shown  it,  but  not  on  this  occasion. 
Has  been  fussing  about  his  vessel  until  I  had,  to-day,  to 
give  him  a  pretty  peremptory  order. 

Men  in  New  York,  men  who  are  sensible  in  most  things, 
are  the  most  easily  terrified  and  panic-stricken  of  any 
community.  They  are  just  now  alarmed  lest  an  ironclad 
steamer  may  rush  in  upon  them  some  fine  morning  while 
they  are  asleep  and  destroy  their  city.  In  their  imagin- 
ation, under  the  teachings  of  mischievous  persons  and 
papers,  they  suppose  every  Rebel  cruiser  is  ironclad,  while 
in  fact  the  Rebels  have  not  one  ironclad  afloat.  It  only 
requires  a  sensation  paragraph  in  the  Times  to  create 
alarm.  The  Times  is  controlled  by  Seward  through  Thur- 
low  Weed,  and  used  through  him  by  Stanton.  Whenever 
the  army  is  in  trouble  and  public  opinion  sets  against  its 
management,  the  Times  immediately  sets  up  a  howl 
against  the  Navy. 

Senator  Pomeroy  of  Kansas  called  yesterday  in  relation 
to  a  scheme,  or  job,  for  deporting  slaves  and  colored  people 
to  Chiriqui.  I  cautioned  him  against  committing  himself 
or  the  Government  to  Thompson,  or  any  corporation  or 
association.  Let  him  know  my  opinion  of  Thompson's 
project  and  my  opposition  to  it.  Advised  him,  if  anything 
was  seriously  and  earnestly  designed,  to  go  to  the  Govern- 
ment of  New  Granada  or  any  of  the  Spanish-American 
States  and  treat  with  them  direct,  and  not  through  schem- 
ing jobbers.  Should  suspect  P.  to  have  a  personal  interest 
in  the  matter  but  for  the  fact  that  the  President,  the 
Blairs,  and  one  or  two  men  of  integrity  and  character 
favor  it. 

September  12,  Friday.  A  clever  rain  last  night,  which 
I  hope  may  swell  the  tributaries  of  the  upper  Potomac. 

A  call  from  Wilkes,  who  is  disturbed  because  I  press  him 
so  earnestly.  Told  him  I  wished  him  off  as  soon  as  possible ; 
had  hoped  he  would  have  left  before  this;  Rebel  cruisers 

124  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES     [SEPT.  12 

are  about  and  immense  injury  might  result  from  a  single 
day's  delay.  I  find  the  officers  generally  dislike  to  sail  with 

A  brief  meeting  of  the  Cabinet.  Seward  was  not  present. 
Has  met  with  us  but  once  in  several  weeks.  No  cause 
assigned  for  this  constant  absence,  yet  a  reluctance  to 
discuss  and  bring  to  a  decision  any  great  question  without 
him  is  apparent. 

In  a  long  and  free  discussion  on  the  condition  of  the 
army  and  military  affairs  by  the  President,  Blair,  Smith, 
and  myself,  the  President  repeated  what  he  had  before 
said  to  me,  that  the  selection  of  McClellan  to  command 
active  operations  was  not  made  by  him  but  by  Halleck, 
and  remarked  that  the  latter  was  driven  to  it  by  necessity. 
He  had  arranged  his  army  corps  and  designated  the  gen- 
erals to  lead  each  column,  and  called  on  Burnside  to  take 
chief  command.  But  Burnside  declined  and  declared  him- 
self unequal  to  the  position.  Halleck  had  no  other  officer 
whom  he  thought  capable  and  said  he  consequently  was 
left  with  no  alternative  but  McClellan. 

"The  officers  and  soldiers,"  the  President  said,  "were 
pleased  with  the  reinstatement  of  that  officer,  but  I  wish 
you  to  understand  it  was  not  made  by  me.  I  put  McClel- 
lan in  command  here  to  defend  the  city,  for  he  has  great 
powers  of  organization  and  discipline;  he  comprehends  and 
can  arrange  military  combinations  better  than  any  of  our 
generals,  and  there  his  usefulness  ends.  He  can't  go  ahead 
—  he  can't  strike  a  blow.  He  got  to  Rockville,  for  instance, 
last  Sunday  night,  and  in  four  days  he  advanced  to 
Middlebrook,  ten  miles,  in  pursuit  of  an  invading  enemy. 
This  was  rapid  movement  for  him.  When  he  went  up  the 
Peninsula  there  was  no  reason  why  he  should  have  been 
detained  a  single  day  at  Yorktown,  but  he  waited,  and  gave 
the  enemy  tune  to  gather  his  forces  and  strengthen  his 

I  suggested  that  this  dilatory,  defensive  policy  was 
partly  at  least  the  result  of  education;  that  a  defensive 

1862]  THE  WEST  POINT  POLICY  125 

policy  was  the  West  Point  policy.  Our  Government  was 
not  intended  to  be  aggressive  but  to  resist  aggression  or 
invasion,  —  to  repel,  not  to  advance.  We  had  good  engin- 
eers and  accomplished  officers,  but  that  no  efficient,  ener- 
getic, audacious,  fighting  commanding  general  had  yet 
appeared  from  that  institution.  We  were  all  aware  that 
General  Scott  had,  at  the  very  commencement,  begun  with 
this  error  of  defense,  the  Anaconda  theory;  was  unwilling 
to  invade  the  seceding  States,  said  we  must  shut  off  the 
world  from  the  Rebels  by  blockade  and  by  OUT  defenses. 
He  had  always  been  reluctant  to  enter  Virginia  or  strike 
a  blow.  Blair  said  this  was  so,  that  we  had  men  of  narrow, 
aristocratic  notions  from  West  Point,  but  as  yet  no  gener- 
als to  command;  that  there  were  many  clever  second-rate 
men,  but  no  superior  mind  of  the  higher  class.  The  dif- 
ficulty, however,  was  in  the  War  Department  itself.  There 
was  bluster  but  not  competency.  It  should  make  generals, 
should  search  and  find  them,  and  bring  them  up,  for  there 
were  such  somewhere,  —  far  down  perhaps.  The  War  De- 
partment should  give  character  and  tone  to  the  army  and 
all  military  movements.  Such,  said  he,  is  the  fact  with  the 
Navy  Department,  which  makes  no  bluster,  has  no  blow- 
ers, but  quietly  and  intelligently  does  its  work,  inspires  its 
officers  and  men,  and  brings  forward  leaders  like  Farragut, 
Foote,  and  Du  Pont.  The  result  tells  you  the  value  of 
system,  of  rightful  discrimination,  good  sense,  judgment, 
knowledge,  and  study  of  men.  They  make  ten  times  the 
noise  at  the  War  Department,  but  see  what  they  do  or  fail 
to  do.  The  Secretary  of  War  should  advise  with  the  best 
and  most  experienced  minds,  avail  himself  of  their  opinions, 
not  give  way  to  narrow  prejudices  and  strive  to  weaken  his 
generals,  or  impair  confidence  in  them  on  account  of  per- 
sonal dislikes.  We  have  officers  of  capacity,  depend  upon 
it,  and  they  should  be  hunted  out  and  brought  forward. 
The  Secretary  should  dig  up  these  jewels.  That  is  his  duty. 
B.  named  Sherman  and  one  or  two  others  who  showed 

126  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES     [SEPT.  12 

"McClellan,"  said  B.,  "is  not  the  man,  but  he  is  the  best 
among  the  major-generals."  Smith  said  he  should  prefer 
Banks.  Blair  said  Banks  was  no  general,  had  no  capacity 
for  chief  command.  Was  probably  an  estimable  officer  in 
his  proper  place,  under  orders.  So  was  Burnside,  and 
Heintzelman,  and  Sykes,  but  the  War  Department  must 
hunt  up  greater  men,  better  military  minds,  than  these  to 
carry  on  successful  war. 

Smith  complimented  Pope's  patriotism  and  bravery,  and 
the  President  joined  in  the  encomiums.  Said  that  Halleck 
declared  that  Pope  had  made  but  one  mistake  in  all  the 
orders  he  had  given,  and  that  was  in  ordering  one  column 
to  retreat  on  Tuesday  from  Centreville  to  Chain  Bridge, 
whereby  he  exposed  his  flank,  but  no  harm  came  of  his 
error.  Blair  was  unwilling  to  concede  any  credit  whatever 
to  Pope;  said  he  was  a  blower  and  a  liar  and  ought  never  to 
have  been  intrusted  with  such  a  command  as  that  in  front. 
The  President  admitted  Pope's  infirmity,  but  said  a  liar 
might  be  brave  and  have  skill  as  an  officer.  He  said  Pope 
had  great  cunning.  He  had  published  his  report,  for  in- 
stance, which  was  wrong,  —  an  offense  for  which,  if  it  can 
be  traced  to  him,  Pope  must  be  made  amenable,  —  "  But," 
said  he,  "  it  can  never,  by  any  skill,  be  traced  to  him." 
"That  is  the  man,"  said  Blair.  "Old  John  Pope,1  his  father, 
was  a  flatterer,  a  deceiver,  a  liar,  and  a  trickster;  all  the 
Popes  are  so." 

When  we  left  the  Executive  Mansion,  Blair,  who  came 
out  with  me,  remarked  that  he  was  glad  this  conversation 
had  taken  place.  He  wanted  to  let  the  President  know 
we  must  have  a  Secretary  of  War  who  can  do  something 
besides  intrigue,  — who  can  give  force  and  character  to  the 
army,  administer  the  Department  on  correct  principles. 
Cameron,  he  said,  had  got  into  the  War  Department  by 
the  contrivance  and  cunning  of  Seward,  who  used  him  and 
other  corruptionists  as  he  pleased,  with  the  assistance  of 

1  General  Pope's  father  was  Judge  Nathaniel  Pope,  of  the  United  States 
District  Court  for  Illinois. 

1862]  AN  ESTIMATE  OF  STANTON  127 

Thin-low  Weed;  that  Seward  had  tried  to  get  Cameron  into 
the  Treasury,  -but  was  unable  to  quite  accomplish  that,  and 
after  a  hard  underground  quarrel  against  Chase,  it  ended 
in  the  loss  of  Cameron,  who  went  over  to  Chase  and  left 
Seward.  Bedeviled  with  the  belief  he  might  be  a  candidate 
for  the  Presidency,  Cameron  was  beguiled  and  led  to 
mount  the  nigger  hobby,  alarmed  the  President  with  his 
notions,  and  at  the  right  moment,  B.  says,  he  plainly  and 
frankly  told  the  President  he  ought  to  get  rid  of  C.  at  once, 
that  he  was  not  fit  to  remain  in  the  Cabinet,  and  was  in- 
competent to  manage  the  War  Department,  which  he  had 
undertaken  to  run  by  the  aid  of  Tom  A.  Scott,  a  corrupt 
lobby-jobber  from  Philadelphia.  Seward  was  ready  to  get 
rid  of  Cameron  after  he  went  over  to  Chase,  but  instead  of 
bringing  in  an  earnest,  vigorous,  sincere  man  like  old  Ben 
Wade  to  fill  the  place,  he  picked  up  this  black  terrier,  who 
is  no  better  than  Cameron,  though  he  has  a  better  assistant 
than  Scott,  in  Watson.  Blair  says  he  now  wants  assistance 
to  "get  this  black  terrier  out  of  his  kennel."  I  probably  did 
not  respond  as  he  wished,  for  I  am  going  into  no  combina- 
tion or  movement  against  colleagues.  He  said  he  must  go 
and  see  Seward.  In  his  dislike  of  Stanton,  Blair  is  sincere 
and  earnest,  but  in  his  detestation  he  may  fail  to  allow 
Stanton  qualities  that  he  really  possesses.  Stanton  is  no 
favorite  of  mine.  He  has  energy  and  application,  is  indus- 
trious and  driving,  but  devises  nothing,  shuns  responsi- 
bility, and  I  doubt  his  sincerity  always.  He  wants  no 
general  to  overtop  him,  is  jealous  of  others  in  any  position 
who  have  influence  and  popular  regard;  but  he  has  cunning 
and  skill,  dissembles  his  feelings,  in  short,  is  a  hypocrite,  a 
moral  coward,  while  affecting  to  be,  and  to  a  certain  extent 
being,  brusque,  overvaliant  in  words.  Blair  says  he  is  dis- 
honest, that  he  has  taken  bribes,  and  that  he  is  a  double- 
dealer;  that  he  is  now  deceiving  both  Seward  and  Chase; 
that  Seward  brought  him  into  the  Cabinet  after  Chase 
stole  Cameron,  and  that  Chase  is  now  stealing  Stanton. 
Reminds  me  that  he  exposed  Stanton's  corrupt  character, 

128  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES     [SEPT.  12 

and  stated  an  instance  which  had  come  to  his  knowledge 
and  where  he  has  proof  of  a  bribe  having  been  received; 
that  he  made  this  exposure  when  Stanton  was  a  candidate 
for  Attorney  for  the  District.  Yet  Seward,  knowing  these 
facts,  had  induced  and  persuaded  the  President  to  bring 
this  corrupt  man  into  the  War  Department.  The  country 
was  now  suffering  for  this  mistaken  act.  Seward  wanted  a 
creature  of  his  own  in  the  War  Department,  that  he  might 
use,  but  Stanton  was  actually  using  Seward. 

Stanton's  appointment  to  the  War  Department  was  in 
some  respects  a  strange  one.  I  was  never  a  favorite  of 
Seward,  who  always  wanted  personal  friends.  I  was  not 
of  his  sort,  personally  or  politically.  Stanton,  knowing  his 
creator,  sympathized  with  him.  For  several  months  after 
his  appointment,  he  exhibited  some  of  his  peculiar  traits 
towards  me.  He  is  by  nature  a  sensationalist,  has  from  the 
first  been  filled  with  panics  and  alarms,  in  which  I  have  not 
participated;  and  I  have  sometimes  exhibited  little  respect 
or  regard  for  his  mercurial  flights  and  sensational  disturb- 
ances. He  saw  on  more  than  one  occasion  that  I  was  cool 
when  he  was  excited,  and  he  well  knew  that  I  neither  ad- 
mired his  policy  nor  indorsed  his  views.  Of  course  we  were 
courteously  civil,  but  reserved  and  distant.  The  opposi- 
tion in  the  early  days  of  the  Administration  were  violent 
against  the  Navy  management,  and  the  class  of  Repub- 
licans who  had  secretly  been  opposed  to  my  appointment 
joined  in  the  clamor.  In  the  progress  of  events  there  was 
a  change.  The  Navy  and  my  course,  which  had  been 
assailed,  —  and  which  assaults  he  countenanced,  —  grew 
in  favor,  while  my  mercurial  colleague  failed  to  give  satis- 
faction. His  deportment  changed  after  the  naval  success 
at  New  Orleans,  and  we  have  since  moved  along  harmoni- 
ously at  least.  He  is  impulsive,  not  administrative;  has 
quickness,  often  rashness,  when  he  has  nothing  to  appre- 
hend; is  more  violent  than  vigorous,  more  demonstrative 
than  discriminating,  more  vain  than  wise;  is  rude,  arrogant, 
and  domineering  towards  those  in  subordinate  positions  if 

1862]        THE   COUNTRY   DISHEARTENED        129 

they  will  submit  to  his  rudeness,  but  is  a  sycophant  and 
dissembler  in  deportment  and  language  with  those  whom 
he  fears.  He  has  equal  cunning  but  more  force  and  greater 
capacity  than  Cameron;  yet  the  qualities  I  have  mentioned 
and  his  uneasy,  restless  nature  make  him,  though  possessed 
of  a  considerable  ability  of  a  certain  sort,  an  unfit  man  in 
many  respects  for  the  War  Department  in  times  like  these. 
I  have  sometimes  thought  McClellan  would  better  dis- 
charge the  duties  of  Secretary  of  War  than  those  of  a  gen- 
eral in  the  field,  and  that  a  similar  impression  may  have 
crossed  Stanton's  mind,  and  caused  or  increased  his  hate  of 
that  officer.  There  is  no  love  lost  between  them,  and  their 
enmity  towards  each  other  does  not  injure  McClellan  in 
the  estimation  of  Blair.  Should  McClellan  in  this  Mary- 
land campaign  display  vigor  and  beat  the  Rebels,  he  may 
overthrow  Stanton  as  well  as  Lee.  Blair  will  give  him  act- 
ive assistance.  But  he  must  rid  himself  of  what  President 
Lincoln  calls  the  "slows."  This,  I  fear,  is  impossible;  it  is 
his  nature. 

September  13.  The  country  is  very  desponding  and  much 
disheartened.  There  is  a  perceptibly  growing  distrust  of 
the  Administration  and  of  its  ability  and  power  to  conduct 
the  war.  Military  doubts  were  whispered  on  the  Peninsula 
by  McClellan 's  favorites  before  his  recall,  and  when  he  was 
reinstated  public  confidence  in  the  Administration  through- 
out the  country  was  impaired.  Citizens  and  military, 
though  from  different  causes,  were  distrustful.  It  is  evi- 
dent, however,  that  the  reinstatement  of  McC.  has  inspired 
strength,  vigor,  and  hope  in  the  army.  Officers  and  soldiers 
appear  to  be  united  in  his  favor  and  willing  to  follow  his 
lead.  It  has  now  been  almost  a  week  since  he  left  Wash- 
ington, yet  he  has  not  overtaken  the  enemy,  who  are  not 
distant.  There  is  doubt  whether  he  is  thirty  miles  from 
Washington.  Perhaps  he  ought  not  to  be,  until  he  has 
gathered  up  and  massed  the  dispersed  elements  of  his  com- 
mand. I  shall  not  criticize  in  ignorance,  but  insist  it  is  the 

130  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  13 

duty  of  all  to  sustain  him.  I  am  not  without  hopes  that  his 
late  experience  and  the  strong  pressure  of  public  opinion 
will  overcome  his  hesitancy  and  rouse  him  to  thorough 
work.  He  is  never  rash.  I  fear  he  is  not  a  fighting  general. 
Stanton  is  cross  and  grouty.  A  victory  for  McClellan  will 
bring  no  joy  to  him,  though  it  would  gladden  the  whole 

Rev.  Dr.  Patton  of  Chicago,  chairman  of  a  committee 
appointed  hi  northern  Illinois,  desired  an  introduction 
with  his  associates  to  the  President,  to  advise  with  him  on 
the  subject  of  slavery  and  emancipation.  The  President 
assented  cheerfully. 

September  15.  Some  rumors  yesterday  and  more  direct 
information  to-day  are  cheering  to  the  Union  cause.  Mc- 
Clellan telegraphs  a  victory,  defeat  of  the  enemy  with  loss  of 
15,000  men,  and  that  "  General  Lee  admits  they  are  badly 
whipped."  To  whom  Lee  made  this  admission  so  that  it 
should  be  brought  straight  to  McC.  and  telegraphed  here 
does  not  appear.  A  tale  like  this  from  Pope  would  have 
been  classed  as  one  of  his  fictions.  It  may  be  all  true, 
coming  from  McClellan,  but  I  do  not  credit  Lee's  confes- 
sion or  admission.  That  we  have  had  a  fight  and  beaten 
the  Rebels,  I  can  believe.  It  scarcely  could  have  been 
otherwise.  I  am  afraid  it  is  not  as  decisive  as  it  should  be, 
and  as  is  the  current  belief,  but  shall  rejoice  if  McC.  has 
actually  overtaken  the  Rebels,  which  is  not  yet  altogether 

September  16.  Chase  called  on  me  this  morning.  Wishes 
a  secret  concerted  attack  on  Richmond.  Says  Stanton  will 
furnish  10,000  men.  Told  him  we  would  do  all  that  could 
be  expected  of  the  Navy  in  a  sudden  movement,  but 
doubted  if  a  military  expedition  could  be  improvised  as 
speedily  and  decisively  as  he  supposed.  He  thought  it 
could  certainly  be  effected  in  six  days.  I  told  him  to  try. 
We  would  have  a  naval  force  ready  in  that  tune,  though 


not  so  large  and  powerful  as  I  would  wish;  but  we  would 
do  our  part. 

Chase  tells  me  that  Harrington,  Assistant  Secretary  of 
the  Treasury,  was  at  Fortress  Monroe  last  Thursday  and 
heard  Bankhead,  who  commands  the  Minnesota,  say  that 
the  Government  was  a  poor  affair,  that  the  Administration 
was  inefficient,  that  it  is  time  the  politicians  were  cleared 
out  of  Washington  and  the  army  in  power.  Harrington 
called  subsequently  and  confirmed  the  statement, — less 
strong  perhaps  in  words  but  about  as  offensive.  I  re- 
quested him  to  reduce  his  statement  to  writing. 

At  the  Executive  Mansion,  the  Secretary  of  State  in- 
formed us  there  was  to  be  no  Cabinet-meeting.  He  was 
authorized  by  the  President  to  communicate  the  fact. 
Smith  said  it  would  be  as  well,  perhaps,  to  postpone  the 
Cabinet-meetings  altogether  and  indefinitely,  —  there 
seemed  no  use  latterly  for  our  coming  together.  Others 
expressed  corresponding  opinions.  Seward  turned  off,  a 
little  annoyed. 

An  unfavorable  impression  is  getting  abroad  hi  regard 
to  the  President  and  the  Administration,  not  without  rea- 
son, perhaps,  which  prompted  Smith  and  others  to  express 
their  minds  freely.  There  is  really  very  little  of  a  govern- 
ment here  at  this  time,  so  far  as  most  of  the  Cabinet  are 
concerned;  certainly  but  little  consultation  in  this  import- 
ant period.  Seward,  when  in  Washington,  spends  more  or 
less  of  each  day  with  the  President,  absorbs  his  attention, 
and  I  fear  to  an  extent  influences  his  action  not  always 
wisely.  The  President  has  good  sense,  intelligence,  and  an 
excellent  heart,  but  is  sadly  perplexed  and  distressed  by 
events.  He,  to  an  extent,  distrusts  his  own  administrative 
ability  and  experience.  Seward,  instead  of  strengthening 
and  fortifying  him,  encourages  this  self-distrust,  but  is  not 
backward  in  giving  his  own  judgment  and  experience, 
which  are  often  defective  expedients,  to  guide  the  Execu- 
tive. A  conviction  of  this  state  of  things  stirred  up  Smith 
to  make  his  remarks.  The  President  has,  I  believe,  sincere 

132  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  16 

respect  and  regard  for  each  and  every  member  of  the  Cabi- 
net, but  Seward  seeks,  and  has  at  times,  influence,  which 
is  sometimes  harmful.  The  President  would  often  do 
better  without  him,  were  he  to  follow  his  own  instincts,  or 
were  he  to  consult  all  his  advisers  in  council.  He  would 
find  his  own  opinions  confirmed  and  be  convinced  that 
Seward's  suggestions  are  frequently  unwise  and  weak  and 
temporizing.  No  one  attempts  to  obtrude  himself,  or  warn 
the  President,  or  even  to  suggest  to  him  that  others  than  S. 
should  be  consulted  on  some  of  the  important  measures  of 
the  Government.  In  fact,  they  are  not  informed  of  some  of 
the  measures  which  are  of  general  interest  until  they  see 
them  in  operation,  or  hear  of  them  from  others.  Chase  is 
much  chafed  by  these  things,  and  endeavors,  and  to  some 
extent  succeeds,  in  also  getting  beside  the  President,  and 
obtaining  information  of  what  is  going  forward.  But  this 
only  excites  and  stimulates  Seward,  who  has  the  inside 
track  and  means  to  keep  it.  The  President  is  unsuspicious, 
or  apparently  so;  readily  gives  his  ear  to  suggestions  from 
any  one.  Only  one  of  his  Cabinet,  however,  has  manifested 
a  disposition  to  monopolize  his  attention;  but  the  discus- 
sion of  important  measures  is  sometimes  checked  almost 
as  soon  as  introduced,  and,  without  any  consultation,  or 
without  being  again  brought  forward,  they  are  disposed  of, 
the  Secretary  of  State  alone  having  had  sometimes  cer- 
tainly a  view,  or  ear,  or  eye  hi  the  matter.  He  alone  has 
abbreviated  general  consultation  in  many  cases.  With 
greater  leisure  than  most  of  the  Cabinet  officers,  unless  it 
be  Smith  of  the  Interior,  he  runs  to  the  President  two  or 
three  tunes  a  day,  gets  his  ear,  gives  him  his  tongue,  makes 
himself  interesting  by  anecdotes,  and  artfully  contrives 
with  Stanton's  aid  to  dispose  of  measures  without  action  or 
give  them  direction  independent  of  his  associates.  Under 
the  circumstances,  I  perhaps  am,  latterly,  as  little  inter- 
fered with  as  any  one,  though  the  duties  of  the  State  and 
Navy  Departments  run  together;  yet  I  am  sometimes 
excessively  annoyed  and  embarrassed  by  meddlesome 

1862]       DEPARTMENT  ADMINISTRATION        133 

intrusions  and  inconsiderate  and  unauthorized  action  by 
the  Secretary  of  State.  The  Navy  Department  has,  neces- 
sarily, greater  intimacy,  or  connection,  with  the  State 
Department  than  any  other,  for,  besides  international 
questions  growing  out  of  the  blockade,  our  squadrons  and 
commanders  abroad  come  in  contact  with  our  ministers, 
consuls,  and  commercial  agents,  and  each  has  intercourse 
with  the  Governments  and  representatives  of  other  nations. 
Mutual  understanding  and  cooperation  are  therefore  essen- 
tial and  indispensable.  But  while  I  never  attempt  to  direct 
the  agents  of  the  State  Department,  or  think  of  it,  or  to 
meddle  with  affairs  in  the  appropriate  sphere  of  the  Secre- 
tary of  State,  an  entirely  different  course  is  pursued  by  him 
as  regards  the  Navy  and  naval  operations.  He  is  anxious 
to  direct,  to  be  the  Premier,  the  real  Executive,  and  give 
away  national  rights  as  a  favor.  Since  our  first  conflict, 
however,  when  he  secretly  interfered  with  the  Sumter  ex- 
pedition and  got  up  an  enterprise  to  Pensacola,  we  have 
had  no  similar  encounter;  yet  there  has  been  an  itching 
propensity  on  his  part  to  have  a  controlling  voice  in  naval 
matters  with  which  he  has  no  business,  —  which  he  really 
does  not  understand,  —  and  he  sometimes  improperly  in- 
terferes as  in  the  disposition  of  mails  on  captured  vessels. 
The  Attorney-General  has  experienced  similar  improper 
interference,  more  than  any  other  perhaps;  none  are  ex- 
empt. But  the  Secretary  of  State,  while  meddlesome  with 
others,  is  not  at  all  communicative  of  the  affairs  of  his  own 
Department.  Scarcely  any  important  measures  or  even 
appointments  of  that  Department  are  brought  before  us, 
except  by  the  President  himself  or  by  bis  express  direction. 
The  consequence  is  that  there  is  reticence  by  others  and 
the  Government  is  administered  hi  a  great  measure  by 
Departments.  Seward  is  inquisitive  and  learns  early  what 
is  doing  by  each  of  his  associates,  frequently  before  we 
meet  in  council,  while  the  other  Cabinet  officers  limit 
themselves  to  their  provided  duties  and  are  sometimes 
wholly  unadvised  of  his. 

134  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES     [SEPT.  16 

I  have  administered  the  Navy  Department  almost 
entirely  independent  of  Cabinet  consultation,  and  I  may 
say  almost  without  direction  of  the  President,  who  not  only 
gives  me  his  confidence  but  intrusts  all  naval  matters  to 
me.  This  has  not  been  my  wish.  Though  glad  to  have  his 
confidence,  I  should  prefer  that  every  important  naval 
movement  should  pass  a  Cabinet  review.  To-day,  for  in- 
stance, Wilkes  was  given  the  appointment  of  Acting  Rear- 
Admiral,  and  I  have  sent  him  off  with  a  squadron  to  cruise 
in  the  West  Indies.  All  this  has  been  done  without  Cabinet 
consultation,  or  advice  with  any  one,  except  Seward  and 
the  President.  The  detail  and  the  reserve  are  at  the  insti- 
gation of  Seward,  who  wished  Wilkes,  between  whom  and 
himself,  since  the  Trent  affair,  there  seems  to  be  an  under- 
standing, to  have  a  command,  without  specifying  where. 
In  due  time  our  associates  in  the  Cabinet  will  learn  the 
main  facts  and  infer  that  I  withheld  from  them  my  orders. 
My  instructions  to  our  naval  officers,  —  commanders  of 
squadrons  or  single  ships,  —  cruising  on  our  blockade 
duty,  have  never  been  submitted  to  the  Cabinet,  though  I 
have  communicated  them  freely  to  each.  I  have  never  read 
but  one  of  my  letters  of  instructions  to  the  President,  and 
that  was  to  Captain  Mercer  of  the  Powhatan  in  command 
of  the  naval  expedition  to  Sumter  a  few  weeks  after  I  en- 
tered upon  my  duties,  and  those  instructions  were,  covertly, 
set  aside  and  defeated  by  Seward. 

So  in  regard  to  each  and  all  the  Departments;  if  I  have 
known  of  their  regulations  and  instructions,  much  of  it  has 
not  been  in  Cabinet  consultations.  Seward  beyond  any 
and  all  others  is  responsible  for  this  state  of  things.  It  has 
given  him  individual  power,  but  often  at  the  expense  of 
good  administration. 

In  everything  relating  to  military  operations  by  land, 
General  Scott  first,  then  McClellan,  then  Halleck,  have 
directed  and  controlled.  The  Government  was  virtually 
in  the  hands  of  the  General-in-Chief,  so  far  as  armies  and 
military  operations  were  concerned.  The  Administration 

1862]  LINCOLN  AND  SEWARD  135 

had  no  distinct  military  policy,  was  permitted  to  have 
none.  The  President  was  generally  advised  and  consulted, 
but  Seward  was  the  special  confidant  of  General  Scott, 
was  more  than  any  one  of  McClellan,  and,  in  conjunction 
with  Stanton,  of  Halleck.  With  wonderful  kindness  of 
heart  and  deference  to  others,  the  President,  with  little 
self-esteem  and  unaffected  modesty,  has  permitted  this 
and  in  a  great  measure  has  surrendered  to  military  officers 
prerogatives  intrusted  to  himself.  The  mental  qualities  of 
Seward  are  almost  the  precise  opposite  of  the  President. 
He  is  obtrusive  and  never  reserved  or  diffident  of  his  own 
powers,  is  assuming  and  presuming,  meddlesome,  and  un- 
certain, ready  to  exercise  authority  always,  never  doubt- 
ing his  right  until  challenged;  then  he  becomes  timid,  un- 
certain, distrustful,  and  inventive  of  schemes  to  extricate 
himself,  or  to  change  his  position.  He  is  not  particularly 
scrupulous  in  accomplishing  an  end,  nor  so  mindful  of 
what  is  due  to  others  as  would  be  expected  of  one  who 
aims  to  be  always  courteous  towards  equals.  The  Pre- 
sident he  treats  with  a  familiarity  that  sometimes  borders 
on  disrespect.  The  President,  though  he  observes  this 
ostentatious  presumption,  never  receives  it  otherwise  than 
pleasantly,  but  treats  it  as  a  weakness  hi  one  to  whom 
he  attributes  qualities  essential  to  statesmanship,  whose 
pliability  is  pleasant,  and  whose  ready  shrewdness  he  finds 
convenient  and  acceptable. 

With  temperaments  so  constituted  and  so  unlike  it  is 
not  surprising  that  the  obsequious  affability  and  ready  as- 
sumption of  the  subordinate  presumed  on  and  to  an  extent 
influenced  the  really  superior  intellect  of  the  principal, 
and  made  himself  in  a  degree  the  centralizing  personage. 
While  the  President  conceded  to  the  Secretary  of  State 
almost  all  that  he  assumed,  not  one  of  his  colleagues  made 
that  concession.  They  treated  his  opinions  respectfully, 
but  as  no  better  than  the  opinions  of  others,  except  as  they 
had  merit;  his  errors. they  exposed  and  opposed  as 
they  deserved.  One  or  two  have  always  been  ready  to 

136  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  16 

avail  themselves  of  the  opportunity.  In  the  early  days  of 
the  Administration  the  Cabinet  officers  were  absorbed  by 
labors  and  efforts  to  make  themselves  familiar  with  their 
duties,  so  as  rightly  to  discharge  them.  Those  duties  were 
more  onerous  and  trying,  in  consequence  of  the  overthrow 
of  old  parties  and  the  advent  of  new  men  and  new  organ- 
izations, with  the  great  rupture  that  was  going  on  in  the 
Government,  avowedly  to  destroy  it,  than  had  ever  been 
experienced  by  any  of  their  predecessors. 

Whilst  the  other  members  of  the  Cabinet  were  absorbed 
in  familiarizing  themselves  with  their  duties  and  hi  prepar- 
ing for  impending  disaster,  the  Secretary  of  State,  less 
apprehensive  of  disaster,  spent  a  considerable  portion  of 
every  day  with  the  President,  patronizing  and  instructing 
him,  hearing  and  telling  anecdotes,  relating  interesting 
details  of  occurrences  in  the  Senate,  and  inculcating  his 
political  party  notions.  I  think  he  has  no  very  profound  or 
sincere  convictions.  Cabinet-meetings,  which  should,  at 
that  exciting  and  interesting  period,  have  been  daily,  were 
infrequent,  irregular,  and  without  system.  The  Secretary 
of  State  notified  his  associates  when  the  President  desired 
a  meeting  of  the  heads  of  Departments.  It  seemed  unad- 
visable  to  the  Premier  —  as  he  liked  to  be  called  and  con- 
sidered —  that  the  members  should  meet  often,  and  they 
did  not.  Consequently  there  was  very  little  concerted 

At  the  earlier  meetings  there  was  little  or  no  formality; 
the  Cabinet-meetings  were  a  sort  of  privy  council  or 
gathering  of  equals,  much  like  a  Senatorial  caucus,  where 
there  was  no  recognized  leader  and  the  Secretary  of  State 
put  himself  in  advance  of  the  President.  No  seats  were 
assigned  or  regularly  taken.  The  Secretary  of  State  was 
invariably  present  some  little  time  before  the  Cabinet  as- 
sembled and  from  his  former  position  as  the  chief  executive 
of  the  largest  State  in  the  Union,  as  well  as  from  his  recent 
place  as  a  Senator,  and  from  his  admitted  experience  and 
familiarity  with  affairs,  assumed,  and  was  allowed,  as  was 

1862]     CONDUCT   OF  CABINET-MEETINGS      137 

proper,  to  take  the  lead  in  consultations  and  also  to  give 
tone  and  direction  to  the  manner  and  mode  of  proceedings. 
The  President,  if  he  did  not  actually  wish,  readily  ac- 
quiesced in,  this.  Mr.  Lincoln,  having  never  had  experi- 
ence in  administering  the  Government,  State  or  National, 
deferred  to  the  suggestions  and  course  of  those  who  had. 
Mr.  Seward  was  not  slow  in  taking  upon  himself  to  pre- 
scribe action  and  doing  most  of  the  talking,  without  much 
regard  to  the  modest  chief,  but  often  to  the  disgust  of  his 
associates,  particularly  Mr.  Bates,  who  was  himself  always 
courteous  and  respectful,  and  to  the  annoyance  of  Mr. 
Chase,  who  had,  like  Mr.  Seward,  experience  as  a  chief 
magistrate.  Discussions  were  desultory  and  without  order 
or  system,  but  in  the  summing-up  and  conclusions  the 
President,  who  was  a  patient  listener  and  learner,  concen- 
trated results,  and  often  determined  questions  adverse  to 
the  Secretary  of  State,  regarding  him  and  his  opinions,  as 
he  did  those  of  his  other  advisers,  for  what  they  were  worth 
and  generally  no  more.  But  the  want  of  system  and  free 
communication  among  all  as  equals  prevented  that  con- 
cert and  comity  which  is  really  strength  to  an  adminis- 

Each  head  of  a  Department  took  up  and  managed  the 
affairs  which  devolved  upon  him  as  he  best  could,  fre- 
quently without  consulting  his  associates,  and  as  a  con- 
sequence without  much  knowledge  of  the  transactions  of 
other  Departments,  but  as  each  consulted  with  the  Pre- 
sident, the  Premier,  from  daily,  almost  hourly,  intercourse 
with  him,  continued,  if  not  present  at  these  interviews, 
to  ascertain  the  doings  of  each  and  all,  though  himself 
imparting  but  little  of  his  own  course  to  any.  Great  events 
of  a  general  character  began  to  impel  the  members  to 
assemble  daily,  and  sometimes  General  Scott  was  present, 
and  occasionally  Commodore  Stringham;  at  times  others 
were  called  in.  The  conduct  of  affairs  during  this  period 
was  awkward  and  embarrassing.  After  a  few  weeks  the 
members,  without  preconcert,  expressed  a  wish  to  be 

138  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES     [SEPT.  16 

better  advised  on  subjects  for  which  they  were  all  meas- 
urably responsible  to  the  country.  The  Attorney-General 
expressed  his  dissatisfaction  with  these  informal  proceed- 
ings and  advised  meetings  on  stated  days  for  general  and 
current  affairs,  and  hoped,  when  there  was  occasion, 
special  calls  would  be  made.  The  Secretary  of  State  alone 
dissented,  hesitated,  doubted,  objected,  thought  it  inex- 
pedient, said  all  had  so  much  to  do  that  we  could  not  spare 
the  tune;  but  the  President  was  pleased  with  the  sugges- 
tion, if  he  did  not  prompt  it,  and  concurred  with  the  rest 
of  the  Cabinet. 

The  form  of  proceeding  was  discussed;  Mr.  Seward 
thought  that  would  take  care  of  itself.  Some  suggestions 
were  made  in  regard  to  important  appointments  which  had 
been  made  by  each  head  of  Department,  the  Secretary  of 
State  taking  the  lead  in  selecting  high  officials  without 
general  consultation.  There  seemed  an  understanding 
between  the  Secretaries  of  State  and  Treasury,  who  had 
charge  of  the  most  important  appointments,  of  which 
understanding  the  President  was  perhaps  cognizant. 
Chase  had  extensive  patronage,  Seward  appointments 
of  high  character.  The  two  arranged  that  each  should 
make  his  own  selection  of  subordinates.  These  two  men 
had  political  aspirations  which  did  not  extend  to  their 
associates  (with  perhaps  a  single  exception  that  troubled 
neither).  Chase  thought  he  was  fortifying  himself  by  this 
arrangement,  but  he  often  was  overreached,  and  the  ar- 
rangement was  one  of  the  mistakes  of  his  life. 

Without  going  farther  into  details,  the  effect,  and  prob- 
ably the  intention,  of  these  proceedings  in  those  early  days 
was  to  dwarf  the  President  and  elevate  the  Secretary  of 
State.  The  latter  also  circumscribed  the  sphere  of  [the 
former]  so  far  as  he  could.  Many  of  the  important  meas- 
ures, particularly  of  his  own  Department,  he  managed  to 
dispose  of,  or  contrived  to  have  determined,  independent 
of  the  Cabinet. 

My  early  collision  with  him  in  some  complications  con- 

1862]     RIVALRY  OF   SEWARD  AND   CHASE     139 

nected  with  the  Sumter  and  Pensacola  expeditions,  when 
he  was  so  flagrantly  wrong  as  to  be  overruled  by  the  Presi- 
dent, caused  us  to  get  along  thenceforward  without  serious 
difficulties,  though,  our  duties  being  intimate,  we  were 
often  brought  together  and  had  occasional  disagreements. 
Between  Seward  and  Chase  there  was  perpetual  rivalry 
and  mutual  but  courtly  distrust.  Each  was  ambitious. 
Both  had  capacity.  Seward  was  supple  and  dexterous; 
Chase  was  clumsy  and  strong.  Seward  made  constant 
mistakes,  but  recovered  with  a  facility  that  was  wonderful 
and  almost  always  without  injury  to  himself ;  Chase  com- 
mitted fewer  blunders,  but  persevered  in  them  when  made, 
often  to  his  own  serious  detriment.  In  the  fevered  condi- 
tion of  public  opinion,  the  aims  and  policies  of  the  [two] 
were  strongly  developed.  Seward,  who  had  sustained 
McClellan  and  came  to  possess,  more  than  any  one  else  in 
the  Cabinet,  his  confidence,  finally  yielded  to  Stanton's 
vehement  demands  and  acquiesced  in  his  sacrifice.  Chase, 
from  an  original  friend  and  self-constituted  patron  of 
McC.,  became  disgusted,  alienated,  an  implacable  enemy, 
denouncing  McClellan  as  a  coward  and  military  imbecile. 
In  all  this  he  was  stimulated  by  Stanton,  and  the  victim  of 
Seward,  who  first  supplanted  him  with  McC.  and  then  gave 
up  McC.  to  appease  Stanton  and  public  opinion. 

September  18,  Thursday.  The  last  two  or  three  days 
have  been  pregnant  with  rumors  and  speculations  of  an 
exciting  character.  Some  officials  on  the  watch-tower^ 
sentinels  and  generals,  have  been  alarmed;  but  on  the 
whole  the  people  have  manifested  a  fair  degree  of  con- 
fidence and  composure. 

We  have  authentic  news  that  a  long  and  sanguinary 
battle  has  been  fought.1  McClellan  telegraphs  that  the 
fight  between  the  two  armies  was  for  fourteen  hours.  The 
Rebels  must  have  been  in  strong  position  to  have  main- 
tained such  a  fight  against  our  large  army.  He  also  tele- 
1  The  Battle  of  Antietam  was  fought  on  the  16th  and  17th. 

140  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  is 

graphs  that  our  loss  is  heavy,  particularly  in  generals,  but 
gives  neither  names  nor  results.  His  dispatches  are  seldom 
full,  clear,  or  satisfactory.  "Behaved  splendidly,"  "per- 
formed handsomely,"  but  wherein  or  what  was  accom- 
plished is  never  told.  Our  anxiety  is  intense. 

We  have  but  few  and  foggy  dispatches  of  any  kind  these 
troublesome  days.  Yesterday  and  day  before  there  were 
conflicting  accounts  about  Harper's  Ferry,  which,  it  is 
now  admitted,  was  thrown  to  the  Rebels  with  scarcely 
a  struggle.  Miles,1  who  was  hi  command,  is  reported  mor- 
tally wounded.  .  .  . 

General  Mansfield  is  reported  slain.  He  was  from  my 
State  and  almost  a  neighbor.  He  called  on  me  last  week, 
on  his  way  from  Norfolk  to  join  the  army  above.  When 
parting  he  once  shook  hands,  there  then  was  a  farther 
brief  conversation  and  he  came  back  from  the  door  after 
he  left  and  again  shook  hands.  "Farewell,"  said  I,  "suc- 
cess attend  you."  He  remarked,  with  emphasis,  and  some 
feeling,  "We  may  never  meet  again." 

September  19,  Friday.  Am  vexed  and  disturbed  by  tid- 
ings from  the  squadron  off  Mobile.  Preble,  by  sheer  pusil- 
lanimous neglect,  feebleness,  and  indecision,  let  the  pirate 
steamer  Oreto  run  the  blockade.  She  came  right  up  and 
passed  him,  flying  English  colors.  Instead  of  checking  her 
advance  or  sinking  her,  he  fired  all  round,  made  a  noise, 
and  is  said  to  have  hurt  none  of  her  English  crew.  This 
case  must  be  investigated  and  an  example  made.  Had 
been  dismissed,  this  would  not  have  occurred. 

Nothing  from  the  army,  except  that,  instead  of  follow- 
ing up  the  victory,  attacking  and  capturing  the  Rebels, 
they,  after  a  day's  armistice,  are  rapidly  escaping  over  the 
river.  McGlellan  says  they  are  crossing  and  that  Pleas- 
anton  is  after  them.  Oh  dear! 

I  am  not  writing  a  history  of  the  War  or  its  events  herein. 
That  will  be  found  in  the  books.  But  I  record  my  own 

1  Colonel  Dlxon  S.  Miles.   He  died  of  his  wounds,  Sept.  16,  1862. 

1862]  DISMISSAL  OF  PREBLE  141 

impressions  and  the  random  speculations,  views,  and 
opinions  of  others  also. 

September  20,  Saturday.  Am  troubled  by  Treble's  con- 
duct. There  must  be  a  stop  put  to  the  timid,  hesitating, 
and  I  fear  sometimes  traitorous  course  of  some  of  our 
officers.  Tenderness,  remonstrance,  reproof  do  no  good. 
Preble  is  not  a  traitor,  but  loyal.  An  educated,  gentle- 
manly officer  of  a  distinguished  family  and  more  than 
ordinary  acquirements,  but  wants  promptitude,  energy,  de- 
cision, audacity,  perhaps  courage.  I  am  inclined  to  believe, 
however,  an  excess  of  reading,  and  a  fear  that  he  might 
violate  etiquette,  some  point  of  international  law,  or  that 
he  should  give  offense  to  Great  Britain,  whose  insolence 
the  State  Department  fears  and  deprecates  and  submits  to 
with  all  humility,  had  its  influence.  He  paused  at  a  crit- 
ical moment  to  reflect  on  what  he  had  read  and  the  state 
of  affairs.  A  man  less  versed  in  books  would  have  sunk 
the  pirate  if  she  did  not  stop  when  challenged,  regardless 
of  her  colors.  No  Englishman  had  a  right  to  approach  and 
pass  the  sentinel  on  duty.  Preble  was  placed  there  to  pre- 
vent intercourse,  —  was  a  sentinel  to  watch  the  Rebels 
and  all  others,  —  and  no  Englishman  had  a  right  to  tres- 
pass. A  board  of  officers  would  be  likely  to  excuse  him,  as 

in  the  case  of and ,J  on  account  of  his  amiable 

qualities,  general  intelligence,  and  good  intentions.  The 
tune  has  arrived  when  these  derelictions  must  not  go 
unpunished.  I  should  have  preferred  that  some  other  man 
should  have  been  punished.  I  have  had  the  subject  under 
consideration  with  some  of  the  best  minds  I  could  consult, 
and  found  no  difference  of  opinion.  I  then  took  the  dis- 
patches to  the  President  and  submitted  them  to  him.  He 
said  promptly:  " Dismiss  him.  If  that  is  your  opinion,  it 
is  mine.  I  will  do  it."  Secretary  Seward  and  Attorney- 
General  Bates,  each  of  whom  I  casually  met,  advised  dis- 
missal. It  is  painful,  but  an  unavoidable  duty.  I  am  sorry 

1  No  names  in  original. 

142  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  20 

for  Preble,  but  shall  be  sorry  for  my  country  if  it  is  not 
done.  Its  effect  upon  the  Navy  will  be  more  salutary  than 
were  he  and  fifty  like  him  to  fall  in  battle. 

Commander  Joe  Smith,1  who  died  at  his  post  when  the 
ill-fated  Congress  went  down  from  the  assault  of  the  Mer- 
rimac,  perished  in  the  line  of  duty.  I  have  never  been 
satisfied  with  the  conduct  of  the  flag-officer2  in  those  days, 
who  was  absent  in  the  waters  of  North  Carolina,  —  pur- 
posely and  unnecessarily  absent,  in  my  apprehension, 
through  fear  of  the  Merrimac,  which  he  knew  was  com- 
pleted, and  ready  to  come  out.  It  was  like  dread  of  the 
new  Merrimac  at  Richmond,  which  was  nearly  ready,  that 
led  him  finally  to  resign  his  squadron  command.  He  has 
wordy  pretensions,  some  capacity,  but  no  hard  courage. 
There  is  a  clan  of  such  men  in  the  Navy,  varying  in  shade 
and  degree,  who  in  long  years  of  peace  have  been  students 
and  acquired  position,  but  whose  real  traits  are  not  gener- 
ally understood.  The  Department  is  compelled  to  give 
them  commands,  and  at  the  same  time  is  held  responsible 
for  their  weakness,  errors,  and  want  of  fighting  qualities. 

Nothing  conclusive  from  the  army.  The  Rebels  have 
crossed  the  river  without  being  hurt  or  seriously  molested, 
—  much  in  character  with  the  general  army  management 
of  the  war.  Little  is  said  on  the  subject.  Stanton  makes 
an  occasional  sneering  remark,  Chase  now  and  then  a 
better  one,  but  there  is  no  general  review,  inquiry,  or  dis- 
cussion. There  is  no  abatement  of  hostility  to  McClellan. 

September  22.  A  special  Cabinet-meeting.  The  subject 
was  the  Proclamation  for  emancipating  the  slaves  after 
a  certain  date,  in  States  that  shall  then  be  in  rebellion. 
For  several  weeks  the  subject  has  been  suspended,  but  the 
President  says  never  lost  sight  of.  When  it  was  submitted, 
and  now  in  taking  up  the  Proclamation,  the  President 
stated  that  the  question  was  finally  decided,  the  act  and 

1  Lieutenant  Joseph  B.  Smith. 

1  Captain,  afterwards  Rear-Admiral,  Louis  M.  Goldsborough. 


the  consequences  were  his,  but  that  he  felt  it  due  to  us  to 
make  us  acquainted  with  the  fact  and  to  invite  criticism 
on  the  paper  which  he  had  prepared.  There  were,  he  had 
found,  not  unexpectedly,  some  differences  in  the  Cabinet, 
but  he  had,  after  ascertaining  in  his  own  way  the  views  of 
each  and  all,  individually  and  collectively,  formed  his  own 
conclusions  and  made  his  own  decisions.  In  the  course  of 
the  discussion  on  this  paper,  which  was  long,  earnest,  and, 
on  the  general  principle  involved,  harmonious,  he  re- 
marked that  he  had  made  a  vow,  a  covenant,  that  if  God 
gave  us  the  victory  in  the  approaching  battle,  he  would 
consider  it  an  indication  of  Divine  will,  and  that  it  was 
his  duty  to  move  forward  in  the  cause  of  emancipation.  It 
might  be  thought  strange,  he  said,  that  he  had  in  this  way 
submitted  the  disposal  of  matters  when  the  way  was  not 
clear  to  his  mind  what  he  should  do.  God  had  decided  this 
question  in  favor  of  the  slaves.  He  was  satisfied  it  was 
right,  was  confirmed  and  strengthened  in  his  action  by 
the  vow  and  the  results.  His  mind  was  fixed,  his  decision 
made,  but  he  wished  his  paper  announcing  his  course  as 
correct  in  terms  as  it  could  be  made  without  any  change 
in  his  determination.  He  read  the  document.  One  or  two 
unimportant  amendments  suggested  by  Seward  were  ap- 
proved. It  was  then  handed  to  the  Secretary  of  State 
to  publish  to-morrow.  After  this,  Blair  remarked  that  he 
considered  it  proper  to  say  he  did  not  concur  in  the  ex- 
pediency of  the  measure  at  this  time,  though  he  approved 
of  the  principle,  and  should  therefore  wish  to  file  his  objec- 
tions. He  stated  at  some  length  his  views,  which  were 
substantially  that  we  ought  not  to  put  in  greater  jeopardy 
the  patriotic  element  in  the  Border  States,  that  the  results 
of  this  Proclamation  would  be  to  carry  over  those  States 
en  masse  to  the  Secessionists  as  soon  as  it  was  read,  and 
that  there  was  also  a  class  of  partisans  in  the  Free  States 
endeavoring  to  revive  old  parties,  who  would  have  a  club 
put  into  their  hands  of  which  they  would  avail  themselves 
to  beat  the  Administration. 

144  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  22 

The  President  said  he  had  considered  the  danger  to  be 
apprehended  from  the  first  objection,  which  was  undoubt- 
edly serious,  but  the  objection  was  certainly  as  great  not 
to  act;  as  regarded  the  last,  it  had  not  much  weight  with 

The  question  of  power,  authority,  in  the  Government  to 
set  free  the  slaves  was  not  much  discussed  at  this  meeting, 
but  had  been  canvassed  by  the  President  in  private  con- 
versation with  the  members  individually.  Some  thought 
legislation  advisable  before  the  step  was  taken,  but  Con- 
gress was  clothed  with  no  authority  on  this  subject,  nor  is 
the  Executive,  except  under  the  war  power,  —  military 
necessity,  martial  law,  when  there  can  be  no  legislation. 
This  was  the  view  which  I  took  when  the  President  first 
presented  the  subject  to  Seward  and  myself  last  summer 
as  we  were  returning  from  the  funeral  of  Stanton's  child,  — 
a  ride  of  two  or  three  miles  from  beyond  Georgetown. 
Seward  was  at  that  time  not  at  all  communicative,  and,  I 
think,  not  willing  to  advise,  though  he  did  not  dissent  from, 
the  movement.  It  is  momentous  both  in  its  immediate 
and  remote  results,  and  an  exercise  of  extraordinary  power 
which  cannot  be  justified  on  mere  humanitarian  principles, 
and  would  never  have  been  attempted  but  to  preserve  the 
national  existence.  The  slaves  must  be  with  us  or  against 
us  in  the  War.  Let  us  have  them.  These  were  my  convic- 
tions and  this  the  drift  of  the  discussion. 

The  effect  which  the  Proclamation  will  have  on  the 
public  mind  is  a  matter  of  some  uncertainty.  In  some 
respects  it  would,  I  think,  have  been  better  to  have  issued 
it  when  formerly  first  considered. 

There  is  an  impression  that  Seward  has  opposed,  and  is 
opposed  to,  the  measure.  I  have  not  been  without  that 
impression  myself,  chiefly  from  his  hesitation  to  commit 
himself,  and  perhaps  because  action  was  suspended  on  his 
suggestion.  But  in  the  final  discussion  he  has  as  cordially 
supported  the  measure  as  Chase. 

For  myself  the  subject  has,  from  its  magnitude  and  its 


consequences,  oppressed  me,  aside  from  the  ethical  features 
of  the  question.  It  is  a  step  in  the  progress  of  this  war 
which  will  extend  into  the  distant  future.  A  favorable 
termination  of  this  terrible  conflict  seems  more  remote 
with  every  movement,  and  unless  the  Rebels  hasten  to 
avail  themselves  of  the  alternative  presented,  of  which  I 
see  little  probability,  the  war  can  scarcely  be  other  than 
one  of  emancipation  to  the  slave,  or  subjugation,  or  sub- 
mission to  their  Rebel  owners.  There  is  in  the  Free  States 
a  very  general  impression  that  this  measure  will  insure  a 
speedy  peace.  I  cannot  say  that  I  so  view  it.  No  one  in 
those  States  dare  advocate  peace  as  a  means  of  prolonging 
slavery,  even  if  it  is  his  honest  opinion,  and  the  pecuniary, 
industrial,  and  social  sacrifice  impending  will  intensify  the 
struggle  before  us.  While,  however,  these  dark  clouds  are 
above  and  around  us,  I  cannot  see  how  the  subject  can  be 
avoided.  Perhaps  it  is  not  desirable  it  should  be.  It  is, 
however,  an  arbitrary  and  despotic  measure  in  the  cause 
of  freedom. 

September  23,  Tuesday.  Received  a  letter  from  Commo- 
dore W.  D.  Porter  stating  his  arrival  in  New  York  after 
many  signal  exploits,  —  capturing  the  ironclad  steamer 
Arkansas,  running  Bayou  Sara,  etc.  Charges  from  Admirals 
Farragut  and  Davis,  accusing  him  of  misrepresentation 
and  worse,  have  preceded  his  arrival.  The  War  Depart- 
ment has  sent  me  an  inexcusable  letter,  abusive  of  the 
military,  which  Porter  has  written,  and  which  Stanton 
cannot  notice.  I  have  been  compelled  to  reprove  him 
and  to  send  him  before  the  Retiring  Board.  Like  all  the 
Porters,  he  is  a  courageous,  daring,  troublesome,  reckless 

No  news  from  the  army.  The  Rebels  appear  to  be  mov- 
ing back  into  Virginia  in  their  own  time  and  way,  to  select 
their  own  resting-place,  and  to  do,  in  short,  pretty  much 
as  they  please.  Am  sad,  sick,  sorrowful  over  this  state  of 
things,  but  see  no  remedy  without  change  of  officers. 

146  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES     [SEPT.  24 

September  24,  Wednesday.  Secretary  Smith  called  this 
morning.  Said  he  had  just  had  an  interview  with  Judge- 
Advocate  Turner,  who  related  a  conversation  which  had 
taken  place  between  himself  (T.)  and  Colonel  Key,  one  of 
Halleck's  staff.  T.  had  expressed  to  K.  his  surprise  that 
McClellan  had  not  followed  up  the  victory  last  week  by 
pursuing  the  Rebels  and  capturing  them  or  cutting  them 
in  pieces.  That,  said  K.,  is  not  the  policy.  Turner  asked 
what,  then,  was  the  policy.  Key  said  it  was  one  of  ex- 
haustion; that  it  would  have  been  impolitic  and  injudicious 
to  have  destroyed  the  Rebel  army,  for  that  would  have 
ended  the  contest  without  any  compromise,  and  it  was  the 
army  policy  at  the  right  time  to  compel  the  opposing 
forces  to  adopt  a  compromise.1 

Smith  assures  me  that  Turner  made  to  him  this  com- 
munication. It  is  most  extraordinary,  yet  entirely  con- 
sistent with  current  events  and  what  Wilson  and  others 
have  stated.  While  I  can  hardly  give  credit  to  the  state- 
ment, the  facts  can  be  reconciled  with  every  action  or 
inaction,  —  with  wasted  energies,  fruitless  campaigns,  and 
barren  fights.  Smith  fully  believes  it. 

Had  an  impertinent  letter  from  Senator  John  P.  Hale, 
who  asks  for  copies  of  different  opinions  given  me  by  the 
Attorney-General  on  the  subject  of  appointing  midship- 
men, and  cautioning  me  not  to  disregard  the  plain  language 
of  the  law,  whatever  might  be  the  opinion  of  the  Attorney- 
General.  Informed  Senator  Hale  that  I  had  the  unofficial 
advice  instead  of  the  official  opinion  of  the  law  officer  of 
the  Government,  given  as  a  patriot  and  statesman,  recom- 
mending that  the  appointments  should  be  made,  what- 
ever might  be  the  preliminary  forms  rendered  impossible 
by  the  anomalous  condition  of  the  country;  that  every 
person  whom  I  had  consulted  —  and  I  had  consulted  many 
—  concurred  in  giving  similar  advice;  that  it  accorded 

1  Major  John  J.  Key  was  summarily  called  upon  by  the  President  to 
account  for  his  language,  stingingly  rebuked,  and  forthwith  discharged 
from  the  service. 

1862]  SENATOR  JOHN  P.  HALE  147 

with  my  own  views,  etc.,  etc.;  that  I  had  made  the  ap- 
pointments before  receiving  his  letter  indicating,  on  his 
part,  an  opposite  policy. 

That  he  will  assail  these  appointments  I  have  little 
doubt,  his  object  being  hi  this  instance  to  attack  the 
Attorney-General,  whom  he  cannot  use,  rather  than 
myself,  though  willing  to  assail  both  provided  he  can  do 
so  successfully.  With  some  humor  but  little  industry, 
some  qualities  as  a  jester  and  but  few  as  a  statesman, 
I  have  not  much  respect  for  this  Senatorial  buffoon,  who 
has  neither  application  nor  fidelity,  who  is  neither  honest 
nor  sincere.  Such  men  are  not  useful  legislators. 

As  I  write,  9  P.M.,  a  band  of  music  strikes  up  on  the 
opposite  side  of  the  square,  a  complimentary  serenade  to 
the  President  for  the  Emancipation  Proclamation.  The 
document  has  been  in  the  main  well  received,  but  there  is 
some  violent  opposition,  and  the  friends  of  the  measure 
have  made  this  demonstration  to  show  their  approval. 

September  25,  Thursday.  Had  some  talk  to-day  with 
Chase  on  financial  matters.  Our  drafts  on  Barings  now  cost 
us  29  per  cent.  I  object  to  this  as  presenting  an  untrue  state- 
ment of  naval  expenditures,  —  unjust  to  the  Navy  De- 
partment as  well  as  incorrect  hi  fact.  If  I  draw  for  $100,000 
it  ought  not  to  take  from  the  naval  appropriation  $129,000. 
No  estimates,  no  appropriations  by  Congress,  embrace  the 
$29,000  brought  on  by  the  mistaken  Treasury  policy  of  de- 
preciating the  currency.  I  therefore  desire  the  Secretary  of 
the  Treasury  to  place  $100,000  in  the  hands  of  the  Barings 
to  the  credit  of  the  Navy  Department,  less  the  exchange. 
This  he  declines  to  do,  but  insists  on  deducting  the  differ- 
ence between  money  and  inconvertible  paper,  which  I 
claim  to  be  wrong,  because  in  our  foreign  expenditures  the 
paper  which  his  financial  policy  forces  upon  us  at  home  is 
worthless  abroad.  The  depreciation  is  the  result  of  a  mis- 
taken financial  policy,  and  illustrates  its  error  and  tendency 
to  error. 

148  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  25 

The  departure  from  a  specie  standard  and  the  adoption 
of  an  irredeemable  paper  currency  deranges  the  finances 
and  is  fraught  with  disastrous  consequences.  This  vitiation 
of  the  currency  is  the  beginning  of  evil,  —  a  fatal  mistake, 
which  will  be  likely  to  overwhelm  Chase  and  the  Adminis- 
tration, ii  he  and  they  remain  here  long  enough. 

Had  some  conversation  with  Chase  relating  to  the  War. 
He  is  much  discouraged,  thinks  the  President  is,  believes 
the  President  is  disposed  to  let  matters  take  their  course, 
deplores  this  state  of  things  but  can  see  no  relief.  I  asked 
if  the  principal  source  of  the  difficulty  was  not  in  the  fact 
that  we  actually  had  not  a  War  Department.  Stanton  is 
dissatisfied,  and  he  and  those  under  his  influence  do  not 
sustain  and  encourage  McClellan,  yet  he  needs  to  be  con- 
stantly stimulated,  inspired,  and  pushed  forward.  It  was, 
I  said,  apparent  to  me,  and  I  thought  to  him,  that  the 
Secretary  of  War,  though  arrogant  and  often  offensive  in 
language,  did  not  direct  army  movements;  he  appears  to 
have  something  else  than  army  operations  in  view.  The 
army  officers  here,  or  others  than  he,  appear  to  control 
military  movements.  Chase  was  disturbed  by  my  re- 
marks. Said  Stanton  had  not  been  sustained,  and  his 
Department  had  become  demoralized,  but  he  (C.)  should 
never  consent  to  remain  if  Stanton  left.  I  told  him  he  mis- 
apprehended me.  I  was  not  the  man  to  propose  the  exclu- 
sion of  Stanton,  or  any  one  of  our  Cabinet  associates,  but 
we  must  look  at  things  as  they  are  and  not  fear  to  discuss 
them.  It  was  our  duty  to  meet  difficulties  and  try  to  correct 
them.  It  was  wrong  for  him,  or  any  one,  to  say  he  would 
not  remain  and  do  his  duty  if  the  welfare  of  the  country 
required  a  change  of  policy  or  a  personal  change  in  any  one 
Department.  If  Stanton  was  militarily  unfit,  indifferent, 
dissatisfied,  or  engaged  in  petty  personal  intrigues  against 
a  man  whom  he  disliked,  to  the  neglect  of  the  duties  with 
which  he  was  intrusted,  or  had  not  the  necessary  adminis- 
trative ability,  was  from  rudeness  or  any  other  cause  of- 
fensive, we  ought  not  to  shut  our  eyes  to  the  fact.  If  a  man 

1862]       CHASE'S  OPINION  OF  STANTON          149 

were  to  be  brought  into  the  War  Department,  or  proposed 
to  be  brought  in,  with  heart  and  mind  in  the  cause,  sin- 
cere, earnest,  and  capable,  who  would  master  the  generals 
and  control  them,  break  up  cliquism,  and  bring  forward 
those  officers  who  had  the  highest  military  qualities,  we 
ought  not  to  object  to  it.  I  knew  not  that  such  a  change 
was  thought  of.  Without  controverting  or  assenting,  he 
said  Stanton  had  given  way  just  as  Cameron  did,  and  in 
that  way  lost  command  and  influence.  It  is  evident  that 
Chase  takes  pretty  much  the  same  views  that  I  do,  but  has 
not  made  up  his  mind  to  act  upon  his  convictions.  He 
feels  that  he  has  been  influenced  by  Stanton,  whose  polit- 
ical and  official  support  he  wants  in  his  aspirations,  but 
begins  to  have  a  suspicion  that  S.  is  unreliable.  They  have 
consulted  and  acted  in  concert  and  C.  had  flattered  him- 
self that  he  had  secured  S.  in  his  interest,  but  must  have  be- 
come aware  that  there  is  a  stronger  tie  between  Seward  and 
Stanton  than  any  cord  of  his.  C.  is  not  always  an  acute 
and  accurate  reader  of  men,  but  he  cannot  have  failed  to 
detect  some  of  the  infirm  traits  of  Stanton.  When  I  de- 
clined to  make  myself  a  party  to  the  combination  against 
McClellan  and  refused  to  sign  the  paper  which  Chase 
brought  me,  Stanton,  with  whom  I  was  not  very  intimate, 
spoke  to  me  in  regard  to  it.  I  told  Stanton  I  thought  the 
course  proposed  was  disrespectful  to  the  President.  Stan- 
ton  said  he  felt  under  no  obligation  to  Mr.  Lincoln,  that 
the  obligations  were  the  other  way,  both  to  him  and  to  me. 
His  remarks  made  an  impression  on  me  most  unfavorable, 
and  confirmed  my  previous  opinion  that  he  is  not  faithful 
and  true  but  insincere. 

The  real  character  of  J.  P.  Hale  is  exhibited  in  a  single 
transaction.  He  wrote  me  an  impertinent  and  dictatorial 
letter  which  I  received  on  Wednesday  morning,  admonish- 
ing me  not  to  violate  law  in  the  appointment  of  midship- 
men. Learning  from  my  answer  that  I  was  making  these 
appointments  notwithstanding  his  warning  and  protest,  he 
had  the  superlative  meanness  to  call  on  Assistant  Secretary 

150  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES     [SEPT.  25 

Fox,  and  request  him,  if  I  was  actually  making  the  ap- 
pointments which  he  declares  to  be  illegal,  to  procure 
on  his  (Hale's)  application  the  appointment  of  a  lad  for 
whom  he  felt  an  interest.  This  is  after  his  supercilious 
letter  to  me,  and  one  equally  supercilious  to  Fox,  which 
the  latter  showed  me,  in  which  he  buttoned  up  his  virtue 
to  the  throat  and  said  he  would  never  acquiesce  in  such 
a  violation  of  the  law.  Oh,  John  P.  Hale,  how  transparent 
is  thy  virtue !  Long  speeches,  loud  professions,  Scriptural 
quotations,  funny  anecdotes,  vehement  denunciations  avail 
not  to  cover  thy  nakedness,  which  is  very  bald. 

The  President  has  issued  a  proclamation  on  martial 
law,  —  suspension  of  habeas  corpus  he  terms  it,  meaning, 
of  course,  a  suspension  of  the  privilege  of  the  writ  of 
habeas  corpus.  Of  this  proclamation,  I  knew  nothing  until 
I  saw  it  in  the  papers,  and  am  not  sorry  that  I  did  not. 
I  question  the  wisdom  or  utility  of  a  multiplicity  of  pro- 
clamations striking  deep  on  great  questions. 

September  26,  Friday.  At  several  meetings  of  late  the 
subject  of  deporting  the  colored  race  has  been  discussed. 
Indeed  for  months,  almost  from  the  commencement  of  this 
administration,  it  has  been  at  tunes  considered.  More 
than  a  year  ago  it  was  thrust  on  me  by  Thompson  and 
others  in  connection  with  the  Chiriqui  Grant,  a  claim  to 
title  from  the  Government  of  Central  America  of  a  large 
part  of  Costa  Rica.  Speculators  used  it  as  a  means  of  dis- 
posing of  that  grant  to  our  Government.  It  was  a  rotten 
remnant  of  an  intrigue  of  the  last  administration.  The 
President,  encouraged  by  Blair  and  Smith,  was  disposed  to 
favor  it.  Blair  is  honest  and  disinterested ;  perhaps  Smith 
is  so,  yet  I  have  not  been  favorably  impressed  with  his 
zeal  in  behalf  of  the  Chiriqui  Association.  As  early  as 
May,  1861,  a  great  pressure  was  made  upon  me  to  enter 
into  a  coal  contract  with  this  company.  The  President  was 
earnest  in  the  matter;  wished  to  send  the  negroes  out  of  the 
country.  Smith,  with  the  Thompsons,  urged  and  stimu- 

1862]  THE  CHIRIQUI  SCHEME  151 

lated  him,  and  they  were  as  importunate  with  me  as  the 
President.  I  spent  two  or  three  hours  on  different  days 
looking  over  the  papers,  —  titles,  maps,  reports,  and  evi- 
dence, —  and  came  to  the  conclusion  that  there  was  fraud 
and  cheat  in  the  affair.  It  appeared  to  be  a  swindling 
speculation.  Told  the  President  I  had  no  confidence  in  it, 
and  asked  to  be  released  from  its  further  consideration. 
The  papers  were  then  referred  to  Smith  to  investigate  and 
report.  After  a  month  or  two  he  reported  strongly  in  favor 
of  the  scheme,  and  advised  that  the  Navy  Department 
should  make  an  immediate  contract  for  coal  before  foreign 
governments  got  hold  of  it.  Mr.  Toucey  had  investigated 
it.  Commodore  Engle  had  been  sent  out  to  examine  the 
country  and  especially  in  relation  to  coal.  The  President 
was  quite  earnest  in  its  favor,  but,  satisfied  myself  it  was 
a  job,  I  objected  and  desired  to  be  excused  from  any  parti- 
cipation in  it.  Two  or  three  times  it  has  been  revived,  but 
I  have  crowded  off  action.  Chase  gave  me  assistance  on  one 
occasion,  and  the  scheme  was  dropped  until  this  question 
of  deporting  colored  persons  came  up,  when  Smith  again 
brought  forward  Thompson's  Chiriqui  Grant.  He  made 
a  skillful  and  taking  report,  embracing  both  coal  and  ne- 
groes. Each  was  to  assist  the  other.  The  negroes  were  to 
be  transported  to  Chiriqui  to  mine  coal  for  the  Navy,  and 
the  Secretary  of  the  Navy  was  to  make  an  immediate 
advance  of  $50,000  for  coal  not  yet  mined,  —  nor  laborers 
obtained  to  mine  it,  nor  any  satisfactory  information  or 
proof  that  there  was  decent  coal  to  be  mined.  I  respectfully 
declined  adopting  his  views.  Chase  and  Stanton  sustained 
me,  and  Mr.  Bates  to  an  extent.  Blair,  who  first  favored 
it,  cooled  off,  as  the  question  was  discussed,  but  the 
President  and  Smith  were  persistent. 

It  came  out  that  the  governments  and  rival  parties  in 
Central  America  denied  the  legality  of  the  Chiriqui  Grant 
and  Thompson's  claim,  —  declared  it  was  a  bogus  transac- 
tion. The  President  concluded  he  ought  to  be  better  satis- 
fied on  this  point,  and  determined  he  would  send  out  an 

152  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  26 

agent.  At  this  stage  of  the  case  Senator  Pomeroy  appeared 
and  took  upon  himself  a  negro  emigrating  colonization 
scheme.  Would  himself  go  out  and  take  with  him  a  cargo 
of  negroes,  and  hunt  up  a  place  for  them,  —  all,  profess- 
edly, in  the  cause  of  humanity. 

On  Tuesday  last  the  President  brought  forward  the  sub- 
ject and  desired  the  members  of  the  Cabinet  to  each  take 
it  into  serious  consideration.  He  thought  a  treaty  could 
be  made  to  advantage,  and  territory  secured  to  which  the 
negroes  could  be  sent.  Thought  it  essential  to  provide  an 
asylum  for  a  race  which  we  had  emancipated,  but  which 
could  never  be  recognized  or  admitted  to  be  our  equals. 
Several  governments  had  signified  their  willingness  to 
receive  them.  Mr.  Seward  said  some  were  willing  to  take 
them  without  expense  to  us. 

Mr.  Blair  made  a  long  argumentative  statement  in  favor 
of  deportation.  It  would  be  necessary  to  rid  the  country 
of  its  black  population,  and  some  place  must  be  found 
for  them.  He  is  strongly  for  deportation,  has  given  the 
subject  much  thought,  but  yet  seems  to  have  no  matured 
system  which  he  can  recommend.  Mr.  Bates  was  for 
compulsory  deportation.  The  negro  would  not,  he  said,  go 
voluntarily,  had  great  local  attachments  but  no  enterprise 
or  persistency.  The  President  objected  unequivocally  to 
compulsion.  Then:  emigration  must  be  voluntary  and 
without  expense  to  themselves.  Great  Britain,  Denmark, 
and  perhaps  other  powers  would  take  them.  I  remarked 
there  was  no  necessity  for  a  treaty,  which  had  been  sug- 
gested. Any  person  who  desired  to  leave  the  country  could 
do  so  now,  whether  white  or  black,  and  it  was  best  to  leave 
it  so,  —  a  voluntary  system;  the  emigrant  who  chose  to 
leave  our  shores  could  and  would  go  where  there  were  the 
best  inducements. 

These  remarks  seemed  to  strike  Seward,  who,  I  per- 
ceive, has  been  in  consultation  with  the  President  and 
some  of  the  foreign  ministers,  and  on  his  motion  the  sub- 
ject was  then  postponed,  with  an  understanding  it  would 

1862]        MEETING   OF  THE   GOVERNORS        153 

be  taken  up  to-day.  Mr.  Bates  had  a  very  well  prepared 
paper  which  he  read,  expressing  his  views.  Little  was 
said  by  any  one  else  except  Seward,  who  followed  up  my 
suggestions.  But  the  President  is  not  satisfied;  says  he 
wants  a  treaty.  Smith  says  the  Senate  would  never  ratify 
a  treaty  conferring  any  power,  and  advised  that  Seward 
should  make  a  contract. 

The  Governors  of  the  loyal  States  called  to-day  on  the 
President.  They  have  had  a  meeting  at  Altoona,  for  what 
purpose  I  scarcely  know.  It  was  an  unauthorized  gather- 
ing of  State  Executives,  doubtless  with  good  intent;  but  I 
dislike  these  irregular  and  extraordinary  movements.  They 
must  tend  to  good  or  evil,  and  I  see  no  good.  These  offi- 
cials had  better  limit  their  efforts  within  their  legitimate 

Admiral  Gregory  came  to  see  me  in  relation  to  the  iron- 
clads which  are  being  constructed  under  his  superintend- 
ence. Enjoined  upon  him  to  have  them  completed  by 
November  at  farthest.  A  demonstration  is  to  be  made  on 
Charleston,  and  it  will  not  do  to  depend  upon  the  army 
even  for  cooperation  there. 

It  is  now  almost  a  fortnight  since  the  battle  near  Sharps- 
burg  [Antietam].  The  Rebels  have  recrossed  the  Po- 
tomac, but  our  army  is  doing  nothing.  The  President 
says  Halleck  told  him  he  should  want  two  days  more  to 
make  up  his  mind  what  to  do.  Great  Heavens!  what 
a  General-in-Chief! 

September  27,  Saturday.  Governor  Tod1  called  on  me 
to-day.  Is  hopeful  and  earnest.  Thinks  delay  is  necessary. 
His  confidence  in  McClellan  is  unimpaired,  and  in  the 
President  it  is  greatly  increased.  Has  full,  unwavering 
confidence  the  country  will  be  extricated  and  the  Union 

The  Republican  State  Convention  of  New  York,  which 

1  David  Tod,  Governor  of  Ohio. 

154  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES     [SEPT.  27 

met  at  Syracuse,  has  nominated  General  James  S.  Wads- 
worth  for  Governor.  There  has  been  a  good  deal  of  pecul- 
iar New  York  management  in  this  proceeding,  and  some 
disappointments.  Morgan,  who  is,  on  the  whole,  a  good 
Governor,  though  of  loose  notions  hi  politics,  would,  I 
think,  have  been  willing  to  have  received  a  third  nomina- 
tion, but  each  of  the  rival  factions  of  the  Union  party  had 
other  favorites.  The  Weed  and  Seward  class  wanted  Gen- 
eral Dix  to  be  the  conservative  candidate, — not  that  they 
have  any  attachment  for  him  or  his  views,  but  they  have 
old  party  hate  of  Wadsworth.  The  positive  Republican 
element  selected  Wadsworth.  It  is  an  earnest  and  fit  selec- 
tion of  an  earnest  and  sincere  man.  In  bygone  years  both 
Wadsworth  and  Dix  belonged  to  the  school  of  Silas  Wright 
Democrats.  It  would  have  been  better  had  they  (Seward 
and  Weed)  taken  no  active  part.  I  am  inclined  to  believe 
Weed  so  thought  and  would  so  have  acted.  He  proposed 
going  to  Europe,  chiefly,  I  understand,  to  avoid  the  strug- 
gle, but  it  is  whispered  that  Seward  had  a  purpose  to  ac- 
complish, —  that,  finding  certain  currents  and  influences 
are  opposed  to  him  and  his  management  of  the  State  De- 
partment, he  would  be  glad  to  retreat  to  the  Senate. 

Seymour,  the  Democratic  candidate,  has  smartness,  but 
not  firm,  rigid  principles.  He  is  an  inveterate  partisan, 
place-hunter,  fond  of  office  and  not  always  choice  of  means 
hi  obtaining  it.  More  of  a  party  man  than  patriot.  Is  of 
the  Marcy  school  rather  than  of  the  Silas  Wright  school, 
—  a  distinction  well  understood  in  New  York. 

September  29,  Monday.  Seward  brought  me  to-day  a 
long  dispatch  from  Dudley,  consul  at  Liverpool.  Although 
his  fears  were  somewhat  simulated,  I  saw  he  was  really 
excited  and  alarmed.  He  is  easily  frightened.  I  therefore 
talked  on  general  subjects,  but  he  turned  away,  said  there 
were  terrible  combinations  in  Europe  to  break  the  block- 
ade, that  there  was  evidence  of  it  in  the  documents  he 
brought  and  wished  me  to  read.  They  were  getting  eight 


or  ten  steamers  ready  to  break  the  blockade.  I  told  him 
I  had  no  apprehensions  from  any  general  concerted  attack, 
such  as  he  dreaded,  but  that  I  was  annoyed  by  the  sneak- 
ing method  which  the  Englishmen  practiced  of  stealing 
into  Charleston  in  the  darkness  of  the  night.  On  reading 
the  principal  dispatch,  I  assured  him  there  was  no  evidence 
in  that  document  of  any  purpose  to  break  the  blockade, 
that  there  was  no  mention  of  an  armed  vessel  by  Consul 
Dudley,  that  there  was  activity  among  the  merchant 
adventurers  of  Great  Britain,  stimulated  by  the  Bull  Run 
tidings,  which  they  had  just  previously  received.  I  did  not 
doubt  that  British  merchants  were  actively  preparing  to 
try  to  run  the  blockade,  but  we  would  be  active  in  trying 
to  catch  them. 

He  seemed  relieved  yet  not  perfectly  satisfied.  We  had 
some  conversation  in  relation  to  letters  of  marque,  which 
he  favors.  Wishes  me  to  purchase  the  Baltic  and  give 
Comstock  the  command.  Told  him  I  trusted  our  naval 
cruisers,  though  some  were  not  as  fast  as  I  wished,  would 
perform  the  service,  and  that  were  we  to  buy  and  arm  the 
Baltic,  a  naval  officer  must  command  her. 

This  scheme  for  Comstock  and  the  Baltic  is  a  key  to  the 
affected  alarm.  It  has  been  concocted  by  Thurlow  Weed, 
who  has  a  job  in  view  for  himself  or  friends,  perhaps  both. 
Though  Seward  was  somewhat  frightened,  his  fears  may 
have  been  greater  in  appearance  than  reality.  He  did  not 
alarm  me.  It  is  shameful  that  an  old  profligate  party- 
debaucher  like  Weed  should  have  such  influence,  and 
Seward  is  mistaken  in  supposing  I  could  be  deceived  by 
this  connivance.  His  own  fears  of  breaking  the  blockade 
were  in  a  degree  simulated.  Weed  is  the  prompter  in  this 
Comstock  and  Baltic  intrigue.  It  is  a  job.  Wrote  Seward 
a  letter  of  some  length  on  the  subject  of  cruising  to  sup- 
press the  slave  trade  under  the  treaty  which  he,  without 
consulting  the  Cabinet,  had  recently  negotiated  with  Great 
Britain.  The  letter  is  in  answer  to  one  addressed  to  him 
by  Mr.  Stuart,  the  British  Charge  d'Affaires.  The  treaty 

156  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [SEPT.  29 

looks  to  me  like  a  trap,  and  as  if  the  Secretary  of  State  had 
unwittingly  ' '  put  his  foot  in  it. "  He  thinks  it  would  be  popu- 
lar to  make  a  demonstration  against  slavery  and  the  slave 
trade, — would  conciliate  the  Abolitionists,  who  distrust 
him,  and  be  a  feather  in  his  administration  of  the  State 
Department.  But  he  has  been  inconsiderate  or  duped, 
perhaps  both.  I  declined  to  furnish  cruisers  as  requested, 
for  it  would  weaken  our  position,  and  I  cannot  consent  to 
cripple  our  naval  strength  at  this  tune,  but  prefer  to  retain, 
and  to  act  under,  the  belligerent  right  of  search,  to  that  of 
restricted  right  conferred  by  the  treaty. 

September  30,  Tuesday.  Little  of  importance  at  the 
Cabinet-meeting.  The  President  laid  before  us  the  address 
of  the  loyal  Governors  who  lately  met  at  Altoona.  Its  pub- 
lication has  been  delayed  in  expectation  that  Governor 
Bradford  of  Maryland  would  sign  it,  but  nothing  has  been 
heard  from  him.  His  wife  was  here  yesterday  to  get  a  pass 
to  visit  her  son,  who  is  a  Rebel  officer  and  cannot  come  to 
her.  She  therefore  desires  to  go  to  him.  Seward  kindly 
procured  the  document  for  her.  I  am  for  exercising  the 
gentle  virtues  when  it  can  consistently  and  properly  be 
done,  but  favor  no  social  visitations  like  this.  Let  the 
Rebel  perish  away  from  the  parents  whom  he  has  aban- 
doned by  deserting  his  country  and  fighting  against  his 

The  President  informed  us  of  his  interview  with  Key, 
one  of  Halleck's  staff,  who  said  it  was  not  the  game  of  the 
army  to  capture  the  Rebels  at  Antietam,  for  that  would 
give  the  North  advantage  and  end  slavery;  it  was  the 
policy  of  the  army  officers  to  exhaust  both  sides  and  then 
enforce  a  compromise  which  would  save  slavery. 


D.  D.  Porter  appointed  to  the  Western  Flotilla  —  Porter,  Davis,  and  Dahl- 
gren  —  The  Cabinet  on  Emancipation  —  Admiral  Du  Pont  —  Stan  ton's 
Threat  to  resign  —  Dahlgren's  Ambitions  —  The  Norfolk  Blockade  — 
The  Currency  Question  —  Stuart's  Raid  —  Spanish  Claims  as  to  Mari- 
time Jurisdiction  —  The  Case  of  the  Steamer  Bermuda  —  General 
Scott's  Influence  at  the  Beginning  of  the  War  —  The  Question  of  raising 
the  Norfolk  Blockade  —  A  Hoax  on  Seward  —  Transfer  of  the  Missis- 
sippi Fleet  to  the  Navy  —  Seward  and  the  Mails  captured  on  Blockade- 

October  1,  Wednesday.  Called  this  morning  at  the  White 
House,  but  learned  the  President  had  left  the  city.  The 
porter  said  he  made  no  mention  whither  he  was  going,  nor 
when  he  would  return.  I  have  no  doubt  he  is  on  a  visit  to 
McClellan  and  the  army.  None  of  his  Cabinet  can  have 
been  aware  of  this  journey. 

Relieved  Davis  and  appointed  D.  D.  Porter  to  the 
Western  Flotilla,  which  is  hereafter  to  be  recognized  as  a 
squadron.  Porter  is  but  a  Commander.  He  has,  however, 
stirring  and  positive  qualities,  is  fertile  in  resources,  has 
great  energy,  excessive  and  sometimes  not  over-scrupulous 
ambition,  is  impressed  with  and  boastful  of  his  own  powers, 
given  to  exaggeration  in  relation  to  himself,  —  a  Porter 
infirmity,  —  is  not  generous  to  older  and  superior  living 
officers,  whom  he  is  too  ready  to  traduce,  but  is  kind  and 
patronizing  to  favorites  who  are  juniors,  and  generally  to 
official  inferiors.  Is  given  to  cliquism  but  is  brave  and 
daring  like  all  his  family.  He  has  not  the  conscientious 
and  high  moral  qualities  of  Foote  to  organize  the  flotilla, 
and  is  not  considered  by  some  of  our  best  naval  men  a  for- 
tunate officer;  has  not  in  his  profession,  though  he  may 
have  personally,  what  the  sailors  admire,  "luck."  It  is 
a  question,  with  his  mixture  of  good  and  bad  traits,  how  he 
will  succeed.  His  selection  will  be  unsatisfactory  to  many, 

158  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES         [OCT.  i 

but  his  field  of  operation  is  peculiar,  and  a  young  and  active 
officer  is  required  for  the  duty  to  which  he  is  assigned;  it 
will  be  an  incentive  to  juniors.  If  he  does  well  I  shall  get 
no  credit;  if  he  fails  I  shall  be  blamed.  No  thanks  in  any 
event  will  be  mine.  Davis,  whom  he  succeeds,  is  more  of 
a  scholar  than  sailor,  has  gentlemanly  instincts  and  schol- 
arly acquirements,  is  an  intelligent  but  not  an  energetic, 
driving,  fighting  officer,  such  as  is  wanted  for  rough  work 
on  the  Mississippi;  is  kind  and  affable,  but  has  not  the 
vim,  dash,  —  recklessness  perhaps  is  the  better  word,  — 
of  Porter. 

Dahlgren,  whose  ambition  is  great,  will,  I  suppose,  be 
hurt  that  Porter,  who  is  his  junior,  should  be  designated 
for  the  Mississippi  command;  and  the  President  will  sym- 
pathize with  D.,  whom  he  regards  with  favor,  while  he  has 
not  great  admiration  or  respect  for  Porter.  Dahlgren 
has  asked  to  be  assigned  to  the  special  duty  of  capturing 
Charleston,  but  Du  Pont  has  had  that  object  in  view  for 
more  than  a  year  and  made  it  his  study.  I  cannot,  though 
I  appreciate  Dahlgren,  supersede  the  Admiral  in  this  work. 

The  Emancipation  Proclamation  has,  in  its  immediate 
effects,  been  less  exciting  than  I  had  apprehended.  It  has 
caused  but  little  jubilation  on  one  hand,  nor  much  angry 
outbreak  on  the  other.  The  speculations  as  to  the  senti- 
ments and  opinions  of  the  Cabinet  in  regard  to  this  measure 
are  ridiculously  wild  and  strange.  When  it  was  first 
brought  forward  some  six  or  eight  weeks  ago,  all  present 
assented  to  it.  It  was  pretty  fully  discussed  at  two  suc- 
cessive Cabinet-meetings,  and  the  President  consulted 
freely,  I  presume,  with  the  members  individually.  He  did 
with  me.  Mr.  Bates  desired  that  deportation,  by  force  if 
necessary,  should  go  with  emancipation.  Born  and  edu- 
cated among  the  negroes,  having  always  lived  with  slaves, 
he  dreaded  any  step  which  should  be  taken  to  bring  about 
social  equality  between  the  two  races.  The  effect,  he  said, 
would  be  to  degrade  the  whites  without  elevating  the 
blacks.  Demoralization,  vice,  and  misery  would  follow. 

1862]     THE  CABINET  ON  EMANCIPATION      159 

Mr.  Blair,  at  the  second  discussion,  said  that,  while  he  was 
an  emancipationist  from  principle,  he  had  doubts  of  the 
expediency  of  such  a  movement  as  was  contemplated. 
Stanton,  after  expressing  himself  earnestly  in  favor  of  the 
step  proposed,  said  it  was  so  important  a  measure  that  he 
hoped  every  member  would  give  his  opinion,  whatever  it 
might  be,  on  the  subject;  two  had  not  spoken,  —  alluding 
to  Chase  and  myself. 

I  then  spoke  briefly  of  the  strong  exercise  of  power 
involved  in  the  question,  and  the  denial  of  Executive 
authority  to  do  this  act,  but  the  Rebels  themselves  had  in- 
voked war  on  the  subject  of  slavery,  had  appealed  to  arms, 
and  they  must  abide  the  consequences.  It  was  an  extreme 
exercise  of  war  powers,  and  under  the  circumstances  and 
in  view  of  the  condition  of  the  country  and  the  magnitude 
of  the  contest  I  was  willing  to  resort  to  extreme  measures 
and  avail  ourselves  of  military  necessity,  always  harsh  and 
questionable.  The  blow  would  fall  heavy  and  severe  on 
those  loyal  men  in  the  Slave  States  who  clung  to  the  Union 
and  had  most  of  their  property  in  slaves,  but  they  must 
abide  the  results  of  a  conflict  which  we  all  deplored,  and 
unless  they  could  persuade  their  fellow  citizens  to  embrace 
the  alternative  presented,  it  was  their  hard  fortune  to  suf- 
fer with  those  who  brought  on  the  War.  The  slaves  were 
now  an  element  of  strength  to  the  Rebels,  —  were  laborers, 
producers,  and  army  attendants;  were  considered  as 
property  by  the  Rebels,  and,  if  property,  were  subject  to 
confiscation;  if  not  property,  but  persons  residing  in  the 
insurrectionary  region,  we  should  invite  them  as  well  as 
the  whites  to  unite  with  us  in  putting  down  the  Rebellion. 
I  had  made  known  my  views  to  the  President  and  could  say 
here  I  gave  my  approval  of  the  Proclamation.  Mr.  Chase 
said  it  was  going  a  step  farther  than  he  had  proposed,  but 
he  was  glad  of  it  and  went  into  a  very  full  argument  on  the 
subject.  I  do  not  attempt  to  report  it  or  any  portion  of  it, 
nor  that  of  others,  farther  than  to  define  the  position  of 
each  when  this  important  question  was  before  us.  Some- 

160  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [OCT.  i 

thing  more  than  a  Proclamation  will  be  necessary,  for  this 
step  will  band  the  South  together,  make  opponents  of 
some  who  now  are  friends  and  unite  the  Border  States 
firmly  with  the  Cotton  States  in  resistance  to  the  Govern- 

October  2,  Thursday.  Admiral  Du  Pont  arrived  to-day; 
looks  hale  and  hearty.  He  is  a  skillful  and  accomplished 
officer.  Has  a  fine  address,  is  a  courtier  with  perhaps  too 
much  finesse  and  management,  resorts  too  much  to  ex- 
traneous and  subordinate  influences  to  accomplish  what  he 
might  easily  attain  directly,  and,  like  many  naval  officers, 
is  given  to  cliques,  —  personal,  naval  clanship.  This  evil 
I  have  striven  to  break  up,  and,  with  the  assistance  of  Se- 
cession, which  took  off  some  of  the  worst  cases,  have  thus 
far  been  pretty  successful,  but  there  are  symptoms  of  it  hi 
the  South  Atlantic  Squadron,  though  I  hope  it  is  not  seri- 
ous. It  is  well  that  the  officers  should  not  only  respect  but 
have  an  attachment  to  their  commanders,  but  not  with  in- 
justice to  others,  nor  at  the  expense  of  true  patriotism  and 
the  service.  But  all  that  I  have  yet  seen  is,  if  not  exactly 
what  is  wished,  excusable.  Certainly,  while  he  continues 
to  do  his  duty  so  well,  I  shall  pass  minor  errors  and  sustain 
Du  Pont.  He  gives  me  interesting  details  of  incidents  con- 
nected with  the  blockade,  of  the  entrance  to  Stono,  and 
affairs  at  James  Island,  where  Benham  committed  a  char- 
acteristic offense  in  one  direction  and  Hunter  a  mistake  hi 

October  3,  Friday.  Chase  tells  me  that  Stanton  has  called 
on  him  to  say  he  deemed  it  his  duty  to  resign,  being  satis- 
fied he  could  no  longer  be  useful  in  the  War  Department. 
There  are,  Chase  says,  unpaid  requisitions  on  his  table 
at  this  tune  to  the  amount  of  $45,000,000  from  the  War 
Department,  and  things  are  hi  every  respect  growing  worse 
daily.  Perhaps  Chase  really  believes  Stanton,  who  no 
more  intends  resigning  than  the  President  or  Seward  does. 

1862]       STANTON'S  THREAT  TO   RESIGN         161 

I  remarked  that  the  disagreement  between  the  Secretary 
of  War  and  the  generals  in  command  must  inevitably  work 
disastrously,  that  I  had  for  some  time  foreseen  this,  and 
the  declaration  of  Stanton  did  not  surprise  me.  He  could 
scarcely  do  otherwise;  he  could  not  get  along  if  these  differ- 
ences continued,  but  sooner  or  later  he  or  the  generals,  or 
the  whole,  must  go.  My  remarks  were,  I  saw,  not  expected 
or  acceptable.  Chase  said  if  Stanton  went,  he  would  go. 
It  was  due  to  Stanton  and  to  ourselves  that  we  should 
stand  by  him,  and  if  one  goes  out,  all  had  better  go,  cer- 
tainly he  would. 

This,  I  told  him,  was  not  my  view.  If  it  were  best  for  the 
country  that  all  should  go,  then  certainly  all  ought  to 
leave  without  hesitation  or  delay;  but  it  did  not  follow  be- 
cause one  must  leave,  for  any  cause,  that  all  should.  I  did 
not  admire  combinations  among  officials,  preferred  indi- 
viduality, and  did  not  think  it  advisable  that  we  should  all 
make  OUT  action  dependent  on  the  movements  or  difficul- 
ties of  the  Secretary  of  War,  who,  like  all  of  us,  had  embar- 
rassments and  might  not  himself  be  exempt  from  error. 
There  were  many  things  in  the  Administration  which  he 
and  I  wished  were  different.  He  desired  me  to  think  the 
matter  over.  Said,  with  much  feeling,  things  were  serious, 
that  he  could  not  stand  it,  that  the  army  was  crushing  him, 
and  would  crush  the  country.  Says  the  President  takes 
counsel  of  none  but  army  officers  in  army  matters,  though 
the  Treasury  and  Navy  ought  to  be  informed  of  the  par- 
ticulars of  every  movement.  This  is  Stanton's  complaint 
infused  into  Chase,  and  has  some  foundation,  though  it 
is  but  part  of  the  evil.  This  demonstration  of  Stanton's  is 
for  effect  and  will  fail. 

October  7.  Busy  and  a  little  indisposed  for  a  day  or  two. 
The  President  returned  from  his  visit  to  the  army  Satur- 
day night.  I  met  him  yesterday  when  I  was  riding  out. 
He  was  feeling  well  and  much  gratified  with  news  just  re- 
ceived from  Corinth,  which  he  stopped  me  to  communicate. 

162  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [OCT.  7 

There  was  an  indisposition  to  press  the  subject  of  negro 
emigration  to  Chiriqui  at  the  meeting  of  the  Cabinet, 
against  the  wishes  and  remonstrances  of  the  States  of 
Central  America.  The  President  gave  an  interesting  ac- 
count of  his  visit  to  Antietam,  South  Mountain,  etc.,  the 
late  battle-fields. 

Had  a  brief  canvass  for  candidates  for  Navy  chaplain. 
The  President  wishes  Coleman  appointed.  I  suggested 
that  these  offices  should  be  distributed  among  the  States, 
and  he  concurred. 

A  number  of  highly  respectable  persons  in  Maine  me- 
morialized the  President  in  behalf  of  George  Henry 
Preble,  recently  dismissed,  desiring  his  restoration.  Sub- 
mitted the  memorial,  which  had  been  inclosed  to  me  by 
Senator  Fessenden  with  a  request  I  would  do  so  in  a 
pretty  earnest  letter.  The  President  read  it  through,  and 
said  no  one  could  be  dismissed  or  punished  without  bring- 
ing up  a  host  of  sympathizing  friends  to  resist  the  un- 
pleasant but  necessary  action  of  the  Government,  and 
make  the  victim  a  martyr.  Said  he  would  do  nothing  in 
this  case  unless  I  advised  it. 

Governor  Andrew  of  Massachusetts  called  upon  me  this 
morning,  and  we  had  a  frank,  free,  and  full  interchange  of 
views.  He  is  impatient  under  the  dilatory  military  opera- 
tions and  the  growing  ascendency  of  the  army  in  civil 
affairs.  Our  views  did  not  materially  differ  on  the  points 
discussed,  though  he  has  been  impressed  by  Stanton,  who 
dislikes  many  army  officers. 

October  8,  Wednesday.  Had  a  long  interview  with  Gov- 
ernor Morgan  on  affairs  in  New  York  and  the  country. 
He  says  Wadsworth  will  be  elected  by  an  overwhelming 
majority;  says  the  best  arrangement  would  have  been  the 
nomination  of  Dix  by  the  Democrats  and  then  by  the  Re- 
publicans, so  as  to  have  had  no  contest.  This  was  the 
scheme  of  Weed  and  Seward.  Says  a  large  majority  of  the 
convention  was  for  renominating  him  (Morgan).  I  have 


little  doubt  that  Weed  and  Seward  could  have  made  Mor- 
gan's nomination  unanimous,  but  Weed  intrigued  deeper 
and  lost.  He  greatly  preferred  Morgan  to  Wadsworth,  but, 
trying  to  secure  Dix,  lost  both.  Morgan  says  Aspinwall, 
whom  he  met  here  yesterday,  had  seen  and  got  from  Mc- 
Clellan  the  general  army  order  just  published  sustaining 
the  Emancipation  Proclamation.  Has  some  speculation  in 
regard  to  McClellan's  prospects,  designs,  and  expectations 
as  to  the  Presidency;  doubts  if  he  wants  it,  but  thinks  he 
cannot  avoid  it,  —  all  which  is  of  the  New  York  political 
bill  of  fare. 

October  9,  Thursday.  Letter  to  Senator  Fessenden  in 
regard  to  dismissal  of  Preble,  stating  the  case,  —  the 
fault,  the  dismissal,  and  the  impossibility  of  revoking  it 
without  injury  to  the  service.  The  subject  is  a  difficult  one 
to  handle.  His  friends  believe  he  has  great  merit  as  an 
officer,  when  he  has  but  little,  whatever  may  be  his  learn- 
ing, respectability,  and  worth  as  a  gentleman.  It  will  not 
do  to  tell  his  friends  the  truth,  for  they  would  denounce 
it  as  unjust;  besides  it  is  ungenerous  to  state  unpleasant 
facts  of  a  stricken  man.  A  more  difficult  letter  to  answer 
was  one  from  Captain  Adams,  who  commanded  the  naval 
force  off  Pensacola  in  the  spring  of  1861. 

Got  off  two  long  communications  to  Seward  on  the  sub- 
ject of  reciprocal  search  and  the  belligerent  right  of  search, 
the  British  treaty  and  the  Danish  agreement,  law  and 
instructions,  —  a  queer  medley  of  feeble  diplomacy,  poor 
administration,  illegality,  departure  from  usage,  etc.,  etc. 

Dahlgren  is  grieved  with  my  action  in  his  case.  He  de- 
sires, beyond  almost  any  one,  the  high  honors  of  his  pro- 
fession, and  has  his  appetite  stimulated  by  the  partiality 
of  the  President,  who  does  not  hesitate  to  say  to  him  and 
to  me,  that  he  will  give  him  the  highest  grade  if  I  will  send 
him  a  letter  to  that  effect,  or  a  letter  of  appointment.  Title 
irregularly  obtained  cannot  add  to  Dahlgren's  reputation, 
yet  he  cannot  be  reasoned  with.  He  has  yet  rendered  no 

164  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [OCT.  9 

service  afloat  during  the  war,  —  has  not  been  under  fire,  — 
and  is  not  on  the  direct  road  for  professional  advancement. 
But  he  is  a  favorite  with  the  President  and  knows  it.  The 
army  practice  of  favoritism  and  political  partyism  cannot 
be  permitted  in  the  Navy.  Its  effect  will  be  more  demoral- 
izing than  that  of  the  military,  where  it  is  bad  enough.  I 
am  compelled,  therefore,  to  stand  between  the  President 
and  Dahlgren's  promotion,  in  order  to  maintain  the  serv- 
ice in  proper  condition.  Dahlgren  has  the  sagacity  and 
professional  intelligence  to  know  I  am  right,  and  to  appre- 
ciate my  action  though  adverse  to  himself.  He  therefore 
now  seeks  service  afloat.  Wants  an  opportunity  to  ac- 
quire rank  and  distinction,  but  that  opportunity  must  be 
a  matter  of  favor.  His  last  request  was  to  be  permitted  to 
capture  Charleston.  This  would  give  him  eclat.  I  told  him 
I  could  not  rob  Du  Pont  of  that  honor,  but  that  if  he  wished 
I  would  give  him  an  opportunity  to  participate,  and  un- 
derstood from  him  it  would  be  acceptable.  I  therefore 
tendered  him  an  ironclad  and  the  place  of  ordnance  officer, 
he  retaining  his  position  at  the  head  of  the  Bureau,  with 
leave  of  absence  as  a  volunteer  to  fight. 

My  proposition  has  not  been  received  in  the  manner 
I  expected.  He  thinks  the  tender  of  a  single  ship  to  an 
officer  who  has  had  a  navy  yard  and  is  now  in  the  Bureau, 
derogatory,  yet,  wishing  active  service  as  the  means  of 
promotion,  intimates  he  will  accept  and  resign  the  Bureau. 
This  I  can't  countenance  or  permit.  It  would  not  meet 
the  views  of  the  President,  would  be  wrong  to  the  service, 
and  a  great  wrong  to  the  country,  for  him  to  leave  the 
Ordnance  Bureau,  where  he  is  proficient  and  can  be  most 
useful.  His  specialty  is  in  that  branch  of  the  service;  he 
knows  his  own  value  there  at  this  time,  and  for  him  to 
leave  it  now  would  be  detrimental  to  the  object  he  desires 
to  attain.  He  is  not  conscious  of  it,  but  he  has  Dahlgren 
more  than  the  service  in  view.  Were  he  to  be  present  at  the 
capture  of  Charleston  as  a  volunteer  who  had  temporarily 
left  the  Bureau  for  that  special  service,  it  would  redound 



to  his  credit,  and  make  him  at  least  second  to  Du  Pont  in 
the  glory  of  the  achievement. 

October  10,  Friday.  Some  vague  and  indefinite  tidings 
of  a  victory  by  Buell  in  Kentucky  in  a  two  days'  fight  at 
Perryville.  We  hear  also  of  the  capture  of  batteries  by  the 
Navy  on  the  St.  John's  in  Florida,  but  have  no  particulars. 

A  telegram  from  Delano 1  at  New  Bedford  tells  me  that 
the  pirate  or  Rebel  steamer  290,  built  in  Great  Britain  and 
manned  by  British  seamen,  fresh  from  England,  has  cap- 
tured and  burnt  five  whaling  vessels  off  the  Western 
Islands.  The  State  Department  will,  I  suppose,  submit  to 
this  evidence  that  England  is  an  underhand  auxiliary  to  the 
Rebels,  be  passive  on  the  subject,  and  the  Navy  Depart- 
ment will  receive  as  usual  torrents  of  abuse. 

At  Cabinet  to-day,  among  other  subjects,  that  of  trade 
at  Norfolk  was  under  consideration.  We  were  told  the 
people  are  in  great  distress  and  trouble,  cannot  get  subsist- 
ence nor  make  sale  of  anything  by  reason  of  the  blockade. 
Chase  thought  it  very  hard,  was  disposed  to  open  the  port 
or  relax  the  blockade.  Stanton  opposed  both;  said  Norfolk 
was  hot  with  rebellion,  and  aid  to  Norfolk  would  relieve 
Richmond.  The  President,  in  the  kindness  of  his  heart, 
was  at  first  inclined  to  grant  relief.  Chase  said  I  had 
instructed  the  squadron  to  rigidly  enforce  the  blockade. 
I  admitted  this  to  be  true  as  regarded  Norfolk  and  all  the 
blockaded  ports,  and  assured  him  I  should  not  relax  unless 
by  an  Executive  order,  or  do  otherwise  until  we  had  an- 
other policy.  That  to  strictly  maintain  the  blockade 
caused  suffering  I  had  no  doubt;  that  was  the  chief  object 
of  the  blockade.  I  was  doing  all  in  my  power  to  make  re- 
bellion unpopular,  and  as  a  means,  I  would  cause  the  whole 
insurrectionary  region  to  suffer  until  they  laid  down  their 
arms  and  became  loyal.  The  case  was  not  one  of  sympathy 
but  of  duty.  Chase  urged  that  they  might  be  permitted  to 
bring  out  and  exchange  some  of  their  products,  such  as 
1  B.  F.  Delano,  Naval  Constructor. 

166  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [OCT.  10 

shingles,  staves,  tar,  etc.,  which  they  could  trade  for  neces- 
saries that  were  indispensable.  "Then,"  said  I,  "raise  the 
blockade.  Act  in  good  faith  with  all;  let  us  have  no  favor- 
itism. That  is  my  policy.  You  must  not  use  the  blockade 
for  domestic  traffic  or  to  enrich  a  few." 

The  President  said  these  were  matters  which  he  had  not 
sufficiently  considered.  My  remarks  had  opened  a  view 
that  he  had  not  taken.  He  proposed  that  Seward  and 
Chase  should  see  what  could  be  done. 

There  is,  I  can  see,  a  scheme  for  permits,  special  favors, 
Treasury  agents,  and  improper  management  hi  all  this;  not 
that  Chase  is  to  receive  any  pecuniary  benefit  himself,  but 
in  his  political  aspirations  he  is  courting,  and  will  give  au- 
thority to,  General  Dix,  who  has,  he  thinks,  political  influ- 
ence. It  is  much  less,  I  apprehend,  than  Chase  supposes. 
Dix  is,  I  presume,  as  clear  of  pecuniary  gain  as  Chase,  but 
he  has  on  his  staff  and  around  him  a  set  of  bloodsuckers 
who  propose  to  make  use  of  the  blockade  as  a  machine  to 
enrich  themselves.  A  few  favorites  design  to  monopolize 
the  trade  of  Norfolk,  and  the  Government  is  to  be  at  the 
expense  of  giving  them  this  monopoly  by  absolute  non- 
intercourse,  enforced  by  naval  vessels  to  all  but  them- 
selves. As  we  have  absolute  possession  of  Norfolk  and  its 
vicinity,  there  is  no  substantial  reason  for  continuing  the 
blockade,  and  it  can  benefit  none  but  Army  and  Treasury 
favorites.  General  Dix  has,  I  regret  to  see,  lax  notions. 
Admiral  Lee  holds  him  in  check;  he  appeals' to  Chase,  who 
is  very  severe  towards  the  Rebels,  except  in  certain  mat- 
ters of  trade  and  Treasury  patronage  carrying  with  them 
political  influence. 

Seward  wishes  me  to  modify  my  second  letter  on  the 
subject  of  instructions  under  the  British  slavery  treaty,  so 
as  to  relieve  him  in  a  measure.  I  have  no  objection;  he 
does  not  appear  to  advantage  in  the  proceedings.  In  a 
scheme  to  obtain  popularity  for  himself,  he  has  been  se- 
cretive, hasty,  inconsiderate,  overcunning,  and  weak.  The 
Englishmen  have  detected  his  weak  side  and  taken  advan- 


tage  of  it.  His  vanity  and  egotism  have  been  flattered,  and 
he  has  undertaken  an  ostentatious  exhibition  of  his  power 
to  the  legations,  and  at  the  same  time  would  secure  favor 
with  the  Abolitionists  and  Anti-Slavery  men  by  a  most 
singular  contrivance,  which,  if  carried  into  effect,  would 
destroy  our  naval  efficiency.  His  treaty  binds  us  to  sur- 
render for  a  specific  purpose  the  general  belligerent  right  of 
search  in  the  most  important  latitudes.  The  effect  would 
be  in  the  highest  degree  advantageous  to  the  Rebels,  and 
wholly  in  their  interest.  It  seems  to  me  a  contrivance  to 
entrap  our  Government,  into  which  the  Secretary  of  State, 
without  consulting  his  associates,  has  been  unwittingly 

D.  D.  Porter  left  Wednesday  to  take  command  of  the 
Mississippi  Squadron,  with  the  appointment  of  Acting 
Admiral.  This  is  an  experiment,  and  the  results  not  en- 
tirely certain.  Many  officers  of  the  Navy  who  are  his 
seniors  will  be  dissatisfied,  but  his  juniors  may,  by  it,  be 
stimulated.  The  river  naval  service  is  unique.  Foote  per- 
formed wonders  and  dissipated  many  prejudices.  The 
army  has  fallen  in  love  with  the  gunboats  and  wants  them 
in  every  creek.  Porter  is  wanting  in  some  of  the  best  qual- 
ities of  Foote,  but  excels  him  perhaps  in  others.  The 
service  requires  great  energy,  great  activity,  abundant  re- 
sources. Porter  is  full  of  each,  but  is  reckless,  improvident, 
often  too  presuming  and  assuming.  In  an  interview  on 
Wednesday,  I  endeavored  to  caution  him  on  certain  points 
and  to  encourage  him  in  others.  In  conformity  with  his 
special  request,  General  McClernand  is  to  command  the 
army  with  which  the  Navy  cooperates.  This  gratifies  him, 
for  he  dreads  and  protests  against  association  with  any 
West  Point  general;  says  they  are  too  self-sufficient, 
pedantic,  and  unpractical. 

The  currency  and  financial  questions  will  soon  be  as 
troublesome  as  the  management  of  the  armies.  In  making 
Treasury  notes  or  irredeemable  paper  of  any  kind  a  legal 
tender,  and  in  flooding  the  country  with  inconvertible 

168  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [OCT.  10 

paper  money  down  to  a  dollar  and  fractional  parts  of  a 
dollar,  the  Secretary'of  the  Treasury  may  obtain  moment- 
ary ease  and  comfort,  but  woe  and  misery  will  follow  to 
the  country.  Mr.  Chase  has  a  good  deal  of  ability,  but  has 
never  made  finance  his  study.  His  general  ideas  appear  to 
be  crudely  sound,  but  he  does  not  act  upon  them,  and  his 
principal  and  most  active  and  persistent  advisers  are  of 
a  bad  school.  The  best  and  soundest  financiers  content 
themselves  with  calmly  stating  sound  financial  truths.  He 
has  not  made  his  plans  a  subject  of  Cabinet  consultation. 
Perhaps  it  is  best  he  should  not.  I  think  he  has  advised 
with  them  but  little,  individually.  Incidentally  he  and  I 
have  once  or  twice  had  conversations  on  these  matters,  and 
our  views  appeared  to  correspond,  but  when  he  has  come  to 
act,  a  different  policy  has  been  pursued.  It  will  add  to  the 
heavy  burdens  that  overload  the  people. 

Singular  notions  prevail  with  some  of  our  Cabinet  as- 
sociates, —  such  as  have  made  me  doubt  whether  the  men 
were  serious  in  stating  them.  On  one  occasion,  something 
like  a  year  ago,  Smith  expressed  a  hope  that  the  Treasury 
would  hasten,  and  as  speedily  as  possible  get  out  the  frac- 
tional parts  of  a  dollar,  in  order  to  put  a  stop  to  hoarding. 
Chase  assured  Smith  he  was  hurrying  on  the  work  as  fast 
as  possible.  I  expressed  astonishment  and  regret)  and  in- 
sisted that  the  more  paper  he  issued,  the  more  hoarding  of 
coin  there  would  be  and  the  less  money  we  should  have; 
that  all  attempts  in  all  countries  and  times  to  cheat  gold 
and  silver  had  proved  failures  and  always  would;  that 
money  was  one  thing  and  currency  another;  convertible 
paper  was  current  for  money,  inconvertible  paper  was  not; 
that  two  currencies  could  not  circulate  at  the  same  time 
in  any  community;  that  the  vicious  and  poor  currency 
always  superseded  the  better,  and  must  in  the  nature  of 

Chase,  without  controverting  these  remarks,  said  I  be- 
longed to  the  race  of  hard-money  men,  whose  ideas  were 
not  exactly  adapted  to  these  times.  Smith  was  perfectly 

1862]  STUART'S  RAID  169 

confident  that  hoarding  up  money  would  cease  when  there 
was  no  object  in  it,  and  if  the  Treasury  would  furnish  us 
with  paper  there  would  be  no  object  to  hoard.  He  was 
confident  it  would  do  the  work.  I  asked  Chase  if  he  in- 
dorsed such  views,  but  could  get  no  satisfactory  answer. 
The  Treasury  is  pursuing  a  course  which  will  unsettle  all 

October  11,  Saturday.  We  have  word  which  seems  reli- 
able that  Stuart's  Rebel  cavalry  have  been  to  Chambers- 
burg  in  the  rear  of  McClellan,  while  he  was  absent  in 
Philadelphia  stopping  at  the  Continental  Hotel.  I  hope 
neither  statement  is  correct.  But  am  apprehensive  that 
both  may  be  true. 

October  13,  Monday.  We  have  the  mortifying  intel- 
ligence that  the  Rebel  cavalry  rode  entirely  around  our 
great  and  victorious  Army  of  the  Potomac,  crossing  the 
river  above  it,  pushing  on  in  the  rear  beyond  the  Pennsyl- 
vania line  into  the  Cumberland  Valley,  then  east  and  south, 
recrossing  the  Potomac  below  McClellan  and  our  troops, 
near  the  mouth  of  the  Monocacy.  It  is  the  second  time 
this  feat  has  been  performed  by  J.  E.  B.  Stuart  around 
McClellan's  army.  The  first  was  on  the  York  Peninsula. 
It  is  humiliating,  disgraceful. 

In  this  raid  the  Rebels  have  possessed  themselves  of  a 
good  deal  of  plunder,  reclothed  their  men  from  our  stores, 
run  off  a  thousand  horses,  fat  cattle,  etc.,  etc.  It  is  not  a 
pleasant  fact  to  know  that  we  are  clothing,  mounting,  and 
subsisting  not  only  our  troops  but  the  Rebels  also.  McClel- 
lan had  returned  from  Philadelphia  with  his  wife,  a  most 
estimable  and  charming  lady  who  cannot  have  been  grati- 
fied with  this  exhibit  of  her  husband's  public  duties.  He 
was  at  Harper's  Ferry  when  this  raid  of  Stuart  took  place. 
His  opponents  will  triumph  in  this  additional  evidence  of 
alleged  inertness  and  military  imbecility.  It  is  customary 
for  some  of  our  generals  and  other  officers  to  have  their 

170  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [OCT.  is 

wives  with  them  in  the  camp  and  field.  The  arrangement 
does  not  make  them  better  soldiers.  I  wish  it  were  pro- 
hibited. Some  naval  officers  cite  army  precedents  when 
asking  the  company  of  their  wives  on  shipboard. 

Wrote  Reward  hi  reply  to  a  novel  and  extraordinary 
assumption  of  Tassara,  the  Spanish  Minister,  who  claims 
a  maritime  jurisdiction  of  six  miles  around  the  island  of 
Cuba,  instead  of  three,  the  recognized  coast  jurisdiction 
by  international  law.  Seward  is  disposed  to  concede  it  to 
Spain,  because  she  is  better  disposed  than  the  other  powers, 
and  he  flatters  himself  he  can  detach  her  from  them,  if  we 
will  be  liberal,  —  that  is,  give  up  our  rights.  It  is  among 
the  most  singular  things  of  these  singular  times,  that  our 
Secretary  of  State  supposes  that  he  and  a  foreign  minister 
can  set  aside  established  usage,  make  and  unmake  inter- 
national law,  can  enlarge  or  circumscribe  at  pleasure  na- 
tional jurisdiction  and  authority.  I  have  remonstrated 
with  him  most  emphatically  against  any  such  surrender  of 
our  national  rights,  warned  him  that  the  country  never 
would  assent,  at  all  events  during  hostilities;  but  there  is 
a  difficulty  and  delicacy  in  so  managing  these  questions, 
when  the  Secretary  of  State,  with  loose  notions  of  law, 
usage,  and  his  own  legitimate  duty,  has  undertaken  to  set 
aside  law,  that  is  embarrassing.  He  has  a  desire  to  make 
instead  of  to  execute  national  law,  paying  little  attention 
to  the  practice  of  nations;  does  not  inquire  into  them  until 
after  he  has  been  committed.  The  foreigners  detect  and 
profit  by  this  weakness. 

October  14,  Tuesday.  The  Secretary  of  State  sends  me 
an  important  dispatch  from  Stuart,  British  Charge* 
d'Affaires  during  the  absence  of  Lord  Lyons,  in  which  he 
undertakes  to  object,  unofficially,  to  the  purchase  by  the 
Government  of  the  steamer  Bermuda,  a  prize  captured 
last  April,  until  the  judgment  of  the  court  shall  have  been 
pronounced.  Seward  gives  in,  cringes  under  these  super- 
cilious and  arrogant  claims  and  assumptions.  It  sometimes 

1862]  THE  STEAMER  BERMUDA  171 

appears  to  me  there  is  a  scheme  among  some  of  the  lega- 
tions to  see  how  far  they  can  impose  upon  our  Secretary  of 
State  by  flattery  and  pretension.  I  have  written  a  reply 
which  will  be  likely,  I  think,  to  settle  Mr.  Stuart,  and 
possibly  annoy  Mr.  Seward,  who,  since  the  affair  of  the 
Trent,  when  at  first  he  took  high  and  untenable  ground, 
has  lost  heart  and  courage,  and  is  provokingly  submissive 
to  British  exactions.  I  hope  he  will  let  Stuart  have  my 
letter.  It  touches  on  some  points  which  I  wish  to  force  on 
the  attention  of  the  English  Government. 

Stanton  read  a  dispatch  from  General  Pope,  stating  that 
the  Indians  in  the  Northwest  had  surrendered  and  he  was 
anxious  to  execute  a  number  of  them.  The  Winnebagoes, 
who  have  not  been  in  the  fight,  are  with  him,  and  he  pro- 
poses to  ration  them  at  public  expense  through  the  winter. 
He  has,  Stanton  says,  destroyed  the  crops  of  the  Indians, 
etc.  I  was  disgusted  with  the  whole  thing;  the  tone  and 
opinions  of  the  dispatch  are  discreditable.  It  was  not  the 
production  of  a  good  man  or  a  great  one.  The  Indian  out- 
rages have,  I  doubt  not,  been  horrible;  what  may  have  been 
the  provocation  we  are  not  told.  The  Sioux  and  Ojibbe- 
ways  are  bad,  but  the  Winnebagoes  have  good  land  which 
white  men  want  and  mean  to  have. 

The  evening  papers  contain  a  partisan  speech  from  John 
Van  Buren,1  in  which  he  introduces  a  letter  of  General 
Scott,  dated  the  3d  of  March,  1861,  addressed  to  Seward. 
It  was  familiar.  I  have  heard  it  read  twice  by  General  S. 
himself,  the  first  time,  directly  after  the  inauguration  of  Mr. 
Lincoln,  in  the  War  Department,  but  I  had  the  impression 
it  was  addressed  to  the  President  instead  of  Seward.  For 
what  reason  it  was  placed  in  the  hands  of  John  Van  Buren 
I  do  not  understand.  The  General  thought  much  of  this 
letter,  and  wrote  it,  as  I  supposed,  to  influence  the  then 
incoming  administration,  but  it  was  wholly  inconclusive 

1  A  son  of  Martin  Van  Buren  and  a  lawyer  of  ability.  The  speech  was 
made  in  the  Cooper  Institute,  New  York,  at  a  meeting  to  ratify  the  nom- 
ination of  Horatio  Seymour  as  Governor  of  New  York  by  the  Democrats. 

172  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [OCT.  14 

when  decision  was  wanted.  He  was  in  those  days  listened 
to  by  both  the  President  and  Secretary  of  State,  and  his 
indecisive  policy  had  probably  an  effect  on  them  as  well  as 
others.  I  have  since  come  to  the  conclusion  that  the  Gen- 
eral's own  course  was  shaped  by  Seward,  and  that,  after 
Seward  put  him  aside,  took  Meigs  into  his  confidence,  and 
got  up  the  military  expedition  to  Pickens  without  his 
knowledge,  General  Scott,  in  justification  of  himself  and 
to  show  his  own  views  independent  of  the  Secretary  of 
State,  was  decidedly  for  the  Union. 

His  influence  in  the  early  months  of  the  Administration 
was,  in  some  respects,  unfortunate.  It  was  a  maze  of  un- 
certainty and  indecision.  He  was  sincerely  devoted  to  the 
Union  and  anxious  that  the  Rebellion  should  be  extin- 
guished, yet  shrank  from  fighting.  Seward  had  brought 
him  into  his  policy  of  meeting  aggression  with  concession. 
Blockade  some  of  the  worst  cities,  or  shut  up  their  ports, 
guard  them  closely,  collect  duties  on  shipboard,  or  "let  the 
wayward  sisters  go  in  peace." 1  His  object  seemed  to  be  to 
avoid  hostilities,  but  to  throw  the  labor  of  the  conflict  on 
the  Navy  if  there  was  to  be  war.  He  still  strove,  however, 
as  did  Seward,  to  compromise  difficulties  by  a  national  con- 
vention to  remodel  the  Constitution,  though  aware  the 
Democrats  would  assent  to  nothing.  General  Scott  inau- 
gurated the  system  of  frontiers,  and  did  not  favor  the  ad- 
vance of  our  armies  into  the  rebellious  States.  The  time 
for  decisive  action,  he  thought,  had  passed,  and  those  who 
were  for  prompt,  energetic  measures,  which,  just  entering 
on  administrative  duties,  they  desired,  were  checked  by  the 

October  15,  Wednesday.  General  Dix  came  to  see  me  in 
relation  to  the  blockade  of  Norfolk.  Says  Admiral  Lee  is 
extremely  rigid,  allows  no  traffic ;  that  the  people  of  Nor- 
folk are  suffering,  though  in  his  opinion  one  half  the  people 

1  General  Scott's  expression  as  given  in  the  letter  referred  to  was, 
"  Wayward  sisters,  depart  in  peace." 

1862]  THE   NORFOLK  BLOCKADE  173 

are  loyal.  The  place,  he  says,  is  in  the  military  occupation 
of  the  Government  and  therefore  is  not  liable  to,  and  can- 
not, be  blockaded.  Tells  me  he  has  been  reading  on  the 
question,  and  consulting  General  Halleck,  who  agrees 
with  him.  I  told  him  if  Norfolk  was  not,  and  could  not  be, 
a  blockaded  port,  I  should  be  glad  to  be  informed  of  the 
fact ;  that  the  President  had  declared  the  whole  coast  and 
all  ports  blockaded  from  the  eastern  line  of  Virginia  to  the 
Rio  Grande,  with  the  exception  of  Key  West.  Congress, 
though  preferring  the  closing  of  the  ports,  had  recognized 
and  approved  the  fact,  and  authorized  the  President  from 
time  to  time,  as  we  recovered  possession,  to  open  ports  at 
his  discretion  by  proclamation.  That  he  had  so  opened  the 
ports  of  Beaufort,  Port  Royal,  and  New  Orleans,  but  not 
Norfolk.  If  he  was  disposed  to  raise  the  blockade  of  that 
port,  I  should  not  oppose  it  but  be  glad  of  it.  That  I  had  so 
informed  the  President  and  others,  but  there  was  unquali- 
fied and  emphatic  opposition  in  the  War  Department  to 
such  a  step.  If  he  would  persuade  the  Secretary  of  War 
to  favor  the  measure,  there  would  be  little  resistance  in 
any  other  quarter.  Perhaps  he  and  General  Halleck  could 
overrule  the  objections  of  the  Secretary  of  War.  That  I 
intended  to  occupy  no  equivocal  attitude.  This  was  not  to 
be  a  sham  blockade,  so  far  as  I  was  concerned.  I  thought, 
with  him,  that  as  Norfolk  was  in  the  military  occupancy  of 
our  armies  and  to  continue  so,  there  was  no  substantial 
reason  for  continuing  the  blockade;  that  not  only  humanity 
towards  the  people  but  good  policy  on  the  part  of  the 
Administration  required  we  should  extend  and  promote 
commercial  intercourse.  Commerce  promotes  friendship. 
It  would  induce  the  people  in  other  localities  to  seek  the 
same  privileges  by  sustaining  the  Union  cause.  That,  as 
things  were,  Admiral  Lee  was  doing  his  duty  and  obeying 
instructions  in  rigidly  enforcing  the  blockade.  That  I  was 
opposed  to  favoritism.  There  should  be  either  inter- 
course or  non-intercourse;  if  the  port  was  open  to  trade,  all 
our  citizens,  and  foreigners  also,  should  be  treated  alike. 

174  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [OCT.  is 

"But,"  said  General  Dix,  "I  don't  want  the  blockade  of 
Norfolk  raised;  that  won't  answer." 

"Yet  you  tell  me  there  is  no  blockade;  that  it  has 
ended,  and  cannot  exist  because  we  are  in  military  pos- 

"Well,"  said  he,  "that  is  so;  we  are  in  military  oc- 
cupancy and  must  have  our  supplies." 

"That,"  I  replied,  "is  provided  for.  Admiral  Lee  allows 
all  vessels  with  army  supplies,  duly  permitted,  to  pass." 

"But,"  continued  he,  "we  must  have  more  than  that. 
The  people  will  suffer." 

"Then,"  said  I,  "they  must  return  to  duty  and  not 
persist  in  rebellion.  The  object  of  the  blockade  is  to  make 
them  suffer.  I  want  no  double-dealing  or  false  pretenses. 
There  is,  or  there  is  not,  a  blockade.  If  there  is,  I  shall, 
until  the  President  otherwise  directs,  enforce  it.  If  there 
is  not,  the  world  should  know  it.  Should  the  blockade  be 
modified,  we  shall  conform  to  the  modifications." 

The  General  thought  it  unnecessary  to  tell  the  world  the 
blockade  was  modified  or  removed.  I  thought  we  should 
make  the  changes  public  as  the  declaration  of  blockade 
itself,  if  we  would  maintain  good  faith.  He  seemed  to 
have  no  clear  conception  of  things;  thought  there  ought 
to  have  never  been  a  blockade.  In  that  I  concurred. 
Told  him  I  had  taken  that  view  at  the  commencement, 
but  had  been  overruled;  we  had  placed  ourselves  in  a 
wrong  position  at  the  beginning,  made  the  Rebels  bellig- 
erents, given  them  nationality,  —  an  error  and  an  anomaly. 
It  was  one  of  Mr.  Seward's  mistakes. 

A  letter  has  been  shown  about,  and  is  to-day  published, 
purporting  to  be  from  General  Kearny,  who  fell  at  Chan- 
tilly.  The  letter  is  addressed  to  O.  S.  Halstead  of  New 
Jersey.  It  expresses  his  views  and  shows  his  feelings 
towards  McClellan,  who,  he  says,  "positively  has  no 
talents."  How  many  officers  have  written  similar  private 
letters  is  unknown.  "We  have  no  generals,"  says  this 
letter  of  Kearny. 

1862]  A  HOAX   ON  SEWARD  175 

October  17,  Friday.  The  question  of  traffic  at  Norfolk 
was  discussed  in  Cabinet.  General  Dix  has,  I  see,  made 
some  headway.  Stanton  wanted  to  transfer  the  whole  sub- 
ject of  permits  for  army  supplies  and  intercourse  to  Gen- 
eral Dix.  Chase  thought  there  should  be  leave  granted  for 
return  cargoes  also.  I  requested,  if  there  was  to  be  a  modi- 
fication of  the  blockade,  that  it  should  be  distinctly  under- 
stood and  announced  to  what  extent.  If  traffic  was  to  be 
authorized,  it  should  be  publicly  known.  Let  us  not  have 
the  shame,  demoralization,  and  wrong  of  making  a  meas- 
ure of  this  kind  a  cover  for  favoritism.  No  distinct  con- 
clusion was  arrived  at. 

October  18,  Saturday.  The  ravages  by  the  roving 
steamer  290,  alias  Alabama,  are  enormous.  England 
should  be  held  accountable  for  these  outrages.  The  vessel 
was  built  in  England  and  has  never  been  in  the  ports  of 
any  other  nation.  British  authorities  were  warned  of  her 
true  character  repeatedly  before  she  left. 

Seward  called  on  me  in  some  excitement  this  P.M.,  and 
wished  me  to  meet  the  President,  himself,  Stanton,  and 
Halleck  at  the  War  Department  relative  to  important 
dispatches  just  received.  As  we  walked  over  together,  he 
said  we  had  been  very  successful  in  getting  a  dispatch, 
which  opened  up  the  whole  Rebel  proceedings,  —  dis- 
closed their  plans  and  enabled  us  to  prepare  for  them;  that 
it  was  evident  there  was  a  design  to  make  an  immediate 
attack  on  Washington  by  water,  and  it  would  be  well  to 
buy  vessels  forthwith  if  we  had  not  a  sufficient  number 
ready  for  the  purpose.  When  we  entered  Stanton's  room, 
General  Halleck  was  reading  the  document  alluded  to  and 
examining  the  maps.  No  one  else  was  present.  Stanton 
had  left  the  Department.  The  President  was  in  the  room 
of  the  telegraph  operator. 

The  document  purported  to  be  a  dispatch  from  General 
Cooper,  Assistant  Secretary  of  War  of  the  Confederates,  to 
one  of  the  Rebel  agents  in  England.  A  question  arose  as 

176  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [OCT.  is 

to  the  authenticity  of  the  dispatch.  Halleck,  who  is  famil- 
iar with  Cooper's  signature,  doubted  after  examining  the 
paper  if  this  was  genuine.  Adjutant-General  Thomas  was 
sent  for  and  requested  to  bring  Cooper's  signature  for  com- 
parison. Seward  then  took  the  papers  and  commenced 
reading  aloud.  The  writer  spoke  of  "the  mountains  of 
Arlington,"  "the  fleet  of  the  Potomac,"  "the  fleet  of  the 
North,"  etc.  I  interrupted  Seward,  and  said  it  was  a 
clumsy  manufacture;  that  the  dispatch  could  have  been 
written  by  no  American,  certainly  not  by  General  Cooper, 
or  any  person  conversant  with  our  affairs  or  the  topo- 
graphy of  the  country;  that  there  were  no  mountains  of 
Arlington,  no  fleet  of  the  Potomac,  or  fleet  of  the  North. 
General  Halleck  mentioned  one  or  two  other  points  which 
impressed  him  that  the  dispatch  was  bogus.  The  President 
came  in  while  we  were  criticizing  the  document,  the  reading 
of  which  was  concluded  by  Seward,  when  the  President 
took  the  papers  and  map  to  examine  them.  General 
Thomas  soon  brought  a  number  of  Cooper's  signatures, 
and  all  were  satisfied  at  a  glance  that  the  purported  signa- 
ture was  fictitious. 

Seward  came  readily  to  the  opinion  that  the  papers  were 
bogus  and  that  the  consul,  or  minister,  —  he  did  not  say 
which,  —  had  been  sadly  imposed  upon,  —  sold.  The  dis- 
patch had,  he  said,  cost  a  good  deal  of  money.  It  was 
a  palpable  cheat.  It  may  be  a  question  whether  the  British 
authorities  have  not  connived  at  it,  to  punish  our  inquis- 
itive countrymen  for  trying  to  pry  into  their  secrets. 

It  is  just  five  weeks  since  the  Battle  of  Antietam,  and 
the  army  is  quiet,  reposing  in  camp.  The  country  groans, 
but  nothing  is  done.  Certainly  the  confidence  of  the  people 
must  give  way  under  this  fatuous  inaction.  We  have  sinis- 
ter rumors  of  peace  intrigues  and  strange  management. 
I  cannot  give  them  credit,  yet  I  know  little  of  what  is 
being  done.  The  Secretary  of  War  is  reticent,  vexed,  dis- 
appointed, and  communicates  nothing.  Neither  he  nor 
McClellan  will  inspire  or  aid  the  other. 

1862]  THE  NORFOLK   BLOCKADE  177 

Chase  is  pursuing  a  financial  policy  which  I  fear  will 
prove  disastrous,  perhaps  ruinous.  His  theories  in  regard 
to  gold  and  currency  appear  to  me  puerile. 

General  Dix  is  pressing  schemes  in  regard  to  the  block- 
ade and  trade  at  Norfolk  which  are  corrupt  and  demoral- 
izing. Dix  himself  is  not  selling  licenses,  but  the  scoun- 
drels who  surround  him  are,  and  he  can  hardly  be  ignor- 
ant of  the  fact.  The  gang  of  rotten  officers  on  his  staff 
have  sent  him  here.  One  of  the  worst  has  his  special  con- 
fidence, and  Dix  is  under  the  influence  of  this  cunning, 
bad  man.  He  has  plundering  thieves  about  him,  —  some, 
I  fear,  as  destitute  of  position  as  honesty. 

McClellan  is  not  accused  of  corruption,  but  of  criminal 
inaction.  His  inertness  makes  the  assertions  of  his  op- 
ponents prophetic.  He  is  sadly  afflicted  with  what  the 
President  calls  the  "  slows."  Many  believe  him  to  be  acting 
on  the  army  programme  avowed  by  Key. 

October  24,  Friday.  Wrote  Chase  this  A.M.  respecting 
traffic  at  Norfolk.  The  army  officers  are  crowding  Ad- 
miral Lee  with  permits  to  favorites  obtained  in  abundance 
through  General  Dix.  All  is  in  violation  of  good  faith  as 
regards  the  blockade.  I  wrote  Chase  that  all  trade  should 
be  interdicted  or  it  should  be  opened  to  all;  that  there 
ought  to  be  no  sham  blockade  to  pamper  army  corrup- 
tionists;  that  if  there  is  a  blockade  it  should  be  rigidly 
enforced,  excluding  all;  or  let  us  open  the  port  to  all.  The 
subject  was  discussed  in  Cabinet.  Previous  to  introducing 
it,  I  had  some  talk  with  Chase.  He  fully  agreed  with  me, 
but  preferred  opening  the  port,  while,  under  the  repre- 
sentations of  Stanton,  I  doubted  the  expediency.  But  we 
agreed  that  one  policy  or  the  other  ought  to  be  adopted,  but 
it  should  not  be  equivocal.  When  the  subject  was  intro- 
duced, Chase  flinched,  as  he  often  does,  and  he  did  not 
sustain  me,  though  he  did  not  oppose  me,  —  said  nothing. 
Seward  entreated  that  the  question  might  be  got  along 
with  for  ten  days,  until  after  the  New  York  election.  He 

178  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [OCT.  is 

did  not  wish  to  have  Dix  and  the  interested  fellows  around 
him  take  cause  of  offense  at  this  moment.  Stanton  said  he 
thought  I  had  consented  to  traffic  under  permits  by  Dix. 
I  replied  that  I  had  not,  and  that  he  could  have  had  no 
such  thought  from  anything  I  had  said  or  done;  that  I  was 
opposed  to  traffic  through  any  blockaded  ports  and  to 
return  cargoes  even  in  army  transports,  or  vessels  carrying 
army  supplies. 

October  25,  Saturday.  General  Wadsworth,1  Mr.  Fenton, 
and  others  urgently  insist  on  some  changes  in  the  Brooklyn 
Navy  Yard,  of  masters  who,  they  claim,  are  active  parti- 
sans. But  they  made  no  clear  case.  Told  them,  I  was 
opposed  to  the  policy  of  removals  of  competent  officers 
unless  for  active,  offensive  partisanship;  that  any  man  was 
entitled  to  enjoy  and  exercise  his  opinion  without  molesta- 
tion. General  W.  concurred  with  me  but  understood  there 
were  such  masters  within  the  prescribed  rules.  Told  them 
that  from  any  facts  I  had  received  I  would  only  remove 
Fairion,  master  machinist,  who,  it  is  shown,  is  so  im- 
mersed in  politics  as  to  neglect  his  business,  and  is  a  candi- 
date for  comptroller.  As  he  manifests  a  willingness  and 
intention  to  leave  the  service  for  another  place,  I  think  he 
can  depart  a  few  days  hi  advance  without  detriment.  This 
taking  advantage  of  an  excited  election  to  thrust  miser- 
able partisans  into  places  which  they  are  often  indiffer- 
ently qualified  to  fill,  I  dislike,  and  so  expressed  myself  to 
General  W.,  who  assented  fully  to  my  views. 

Some  discussion  was  had  yesterday  in  Cabinet  in  regard 
to  the  course  which  should  be  pursued  towards  General 
J.  C.  Davis,  who  killed  Major-General  Nelson.  The  grand 
jury,  it  is  reported,  have  ignored  the  bill  in  the  civil  case. 
The  question  was  whether  the  military  ought  to  take  notice 
of  the  homicide  after  the  civil  authorities  declined.  Chase 

1  Major-General  James  S.  Wadsworth,  United  States  Volunteers,  in 
charge  of  the  defense  of  Washington,  and  later  an  unsuccessful  Republican 
candidate  for  Governor  of  New  York. 

1862]  HALLEGK  AND  McCLELLAN  179 

and  Blair  thought  the  military  should.  Stanton  opposed 
it.  Seward  thought  the  affair  might  be  looked  into.  I  re- 
marked that  if  the  transaction  had  occurred  in  the  Navy, 
we  should  at  least  have  had  a  court  of  inquiry. 

November  1,  Saturday.  The  work  on  the  ironclad  turret 
steamer  Passaic  is  nearly  finished.  Ericsson  makes  a  pro- 
position to  fire  the  fifteen-inch  gun  through  the  orifice 
instead  of  protruding  the  piece.  I  have  no  faith  in  it.  Fox 
was  at  first  disposed  to  consider  it  favorably  but  doubt- 
ingly.  Have  sent  Fox,  Admiral  Smith,  and  Dahlgren  to 
New  York  to  witness  test  experiment. 

November  4,  Tuesday.  Further  news  of  the  depredations 
by  the  Alabama.  Ordered  Dacotah,  Ino,  Augusta,  etc., 
on  her  track.  The  President  read  in  Cabinet  to-day  his 
sensible  letter  of  the  13th  of  October  to  General  McClellan, 
ordering  him  to  move  and  to  pass  down  on  the  east  side 
of  the  Blue  Ridge.  McClellan  did  not  wish  to  move  at 
all.  Was  ordered  by  Halleck,  and  when  he  found  he 
must  move,  said  he  would  go  down  the  west  side  of  the 
mountains,  but  when  he  finally  started  went  on  the  east 
side  without  advising  H.  or  the  President. 

Stanton,  whose  dislike  of  McC.  increases,  says  that 
Halleck  does  not  consider  himself  responsible  for  army 
movements  or  deficiencies  this  side  of  the  mountains,  of 
which  he  has  had  no  notice  from  General  McClellan,  who 
neither  reports  to  him  nor  to  the  Secretary  of  War.  All  his 
official  correspondence  is  with  the  President  direct  and  no 
one  else. 

The  President  did  not  assent  to  the  last  remarks  of 
Stanton,  which  were  more  sneering  in  manner  than  words, 
but  said  Halleck  should  be,  and  would  be,  considered  re- 
sponsible, for  he  (the  President)  had  told  him  (Halleck) 
that  he  would  at  any  time  remoVe  McC.  when  H.  required 
it,  and  that  he  (the  President)  would  take  the  entire 
responsibility  of  the  removal. 

180  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [NOV.  4 

Mr.  Bates  quietly  suggested  that  Halleck  should  take 
command  of  the  army  in  person.  But  the  President  said, 
and  all  the  Cabinet  concurred  in  the  opinion,  that  H. 
would  be  an  indifferent  general  in  the  field,  that  he  shirked 
responsibility  in  his  present  position,  that  he,  in  short,  is 
a  moral  coward,  worth  but  little  except  as  a  critic  and 
director  of  operations,  though  intelligent  and  educated. 

Congress  wisely  ordered  a  transfer  of  all  war  vessels  on 
the  Mississippi  to  the  Navy.  It  was  not  by  my  suggestion 
or  procurement  that  this  law  was  passed,  but  it  was  proper. 
It  has,  however,  greatly  disturbed  Stanton,  who,  supported 
by  Halleck  and  Ellet,  opposes  a  transfer  of  the  ram  fleet  as 
not  strictly  within  the  letter,  though  it  is  undoubtedly  the 
intent  of  the  law.  That  Ellet  should  wish  a  distinct  com- 
mand is  not  surprising.  It  is  characteristic.  He  is  full  of 
zeal  to  overflowing;  is  not,  however,  a  naval  man,  but  is, 
very  naturally,  delighted  with  an  independent  naval  com- 
mand in  this  adventurous  ram  service.  It  is,  however,  a 
pitiful  business  on  the  part  of  Stanton  and  Halleck,  who 
should  take  an  administrative  view  and  who  should  be 
aware  there  cannot  be  two  distinct  commands  on  the  river 
under  different  orders  from  different  Departments  without 
endangering  collision. 

Seward  sent  me  a  day  or  two  since  a  singular  note, 
supercilious  in  tone,  in  relation  to  mails  captured  on 
blockade-runners,  telling  me  it  is  deemed  expedient  that 
instructions  be  given  to  our  naval  officers  that  such  mails 
should  not  be  opened,  but  that  as  speedily  as  possible  they 
be  forwarded.  Who  deems  it  expedient  to  give  these  in- 
structions, which  would  be  illegal,  abject,  and  an  unauthor- 
ized and  unwarranted  surrender  of  our  maritime  rights? 
No  man  the  least  conversant  with  admiralty  or  statute 
law,  usage,  or  the  law  of  prize,  or  who  knowingly  main- 
tains national  rights  can  deem  it  expedient  to  give  such 
instructions,  and  I  have  declined  doing  so.  The  President 
must  give  the  order,  which  he  will  never  do  if  he  looks  into 
the  subject.  This  is  another  exhibition  of  the  weakness  and 

1862]  THE  CAPTURED  MAILS  181 

the  loose  and  inconsiderate  administrative  management 
of  the  Secretary  of  State,  who  really  seems  to  suppose  him- 
self the  Government  and  his  whims  supreme  law.  We  had 
this  subject  up  last  August,  and  I  then  pointed  out  the  im- 
propriety of  any  attempt  to  depart  from  law  and  usage,  but 
so  shaped  a  set  of  instructions  as  to  relieve  him;  but  this 
proceeding  is  worse  than  the  former.  I  shall  make  no 
farther  effort  to  relieve  him,  and  have  told  him  I  cannot  go 
beyond  my  instructions  of  the  18th  of  August  last.  He 
professes  to  believe  something  more  is  necessary  to  keep 
the  English  authorities  quiet.  The  truth  is  he  then  and 
now  undertook,  in  a  spirit  of  self-conceit,  to  do  more  than 
he  is  authorized.  Stuart,  the  English  Charge",  knows  it; 
has,  I  have  no  doubt,  pressed  Seward  to  have  instructions 
issued  to  our  officers  which  shall  come  up  to  the  promises 
he  ostentatiously  made.  He  is  conscious,  I  think,  that  he 
has  been  bamboozled,  but  he  will  not  be  able  to  extricate 
himself  by  bamboozling  me.  His  course  is  sometimes  very 
annoying,  and  exhibits  an  indifference  which  is  astonish- 
ing in  one  of  his  long  experience  and  intellectual  capacity. 

A  Private  Grief  —  Burnside  succeeds  McClellan  in  Command  of  the  Army 
of  the  Potomac  —  The  Modification  of  the  Norfolk  Blockade  —  The 
Annual  Report  of  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy  —  The  Question  of  New 
Navy  Yards  —  Count  Gurowski  and  his  Book  —  Commander  Preble's 
Case  —  The  Division  of  Virginia  —  A  Roundabout  Proceeding  of  Sew- 
ard's  —  Seward's  Resignation  and  the  Discussion  in  Regard  to  it  — 
Chase  tenders  his  Resignation  and  the  President  sees  a  Way  out  — 
Cabinet  Rivalries  —  Seward  and  Chase  requested  to  withdraw  their 
Resignations  —  Depredations  of  the  Alabama  —  Cabinet  Discussion 
of  the  West  Virginia  Question  —  Butler  superseded  by  Banks  at  New 
Orleans  —  The  Party  Spirit. 

December  3.  It  is  a  month  since  I  have  opened  this  book 
and  been  able  to  make  any  record  of  current  events.  A 
pressure  of  public  business,  the  preparation  of  my  Annual 
Report,  and  domestic  sorrows  have  consumed  all  my  wak- 
ing moments.  A  light,  bright,  cherub  face,  which  threw  its 
sunshine  on  our  household  when  this  book  was  last  opened, 
has  disappeared  forever.  My  dear  Hubert,  who  was  a  treas- 
ure garnered  in  my  heart,  is  laid  beside  his  five  brothers 
and  sisters  in  Spring  Grove.  Well  has  it  been  for  me 
that  overwhelming  public  duties  have  borne  down  upon 
me  in  these  sad  days.  Alas,  frail  life!  amid  the  nation's 
grief  I  have  my  own. 

A  change  of  the  commander  of  the  Army  of  the  Potomac 
has  taken  place.  Stanton  is  gratified.  McClellan  is  or- 
dered to  Trenton,  and  Burnside  succeeds  him.  Burnside 
will  doubtless  do  his  best,  is  patriotic  and  amiable,  and, 
had  he  greater  powers  and  grasp,  would  make  an  accept- 
able and  popular,  if  not  a  great,  general.  I  hope  the  War 
Department  will  sustain  him  more  earnestly  than  it  did 
McClellan.  Of  the  change  I  knew  nothing  and  wished  to 
know  nothing  when  it  was  made.  I  had  expected  it  might 
take  place  earlier,  when  McClellan  seemed  testing  the  for- 
bearance of  the  Government,  and  not  one  good  word  was 

1862]    MODIFICATION   OF  THE   BLOCKADE    183 

said  for  him.  It  seemed  there  could  not  be,  but  after  he 
commenced  to  move,  I  was  less  prepared  to  see  him  dis- 
placed and  the  announcement  came  with  a  shock.  We 
shall  see  what  Burnside  can  do  and  how  he  will  be  seconded 
by  other  generals  and  the  War  Department. 

The  November  elections  have  not  been  favorable  to 
the  Administration.  To  a  great  extent  its  friends  are 
responsible.  Some  active  and  leading  Republican  minds 
have  ability  and  talent  to  abuse,  berate,  traduce,  often 
in  secret,  and  assail,  and  these  gifts  are  directed  against 
the  Administration.  The  worst  of  them  are  opposed  to  the 
Government  and  violently  opposed  to  its  being  adminis- 
tered by  Democrats. 

The  efforts  of  the  officers  under  General  Dix  and  [of]  the 
General  himself,  aided  by  the  War  and  Treasury  Depart- 
ments, have  finally  so  far  prevailed  that  the  blockading 
squadron  is  to  allow  vessels  to  pass  on  a  permit  from  Gen- 
eral Dix's  military  staff.  I  declined  to  recognize  any  such 
practice  unless  by  special  order  of  the  President,  who  can 
if  he  pleases  modify  the  blockade.  To  allow  exports  and 
imports  is  inconsistent  with  a  rigid  and  honest  blockade. 
There  has  been  a  good  deal  of  manoeuvring,  much  backing 
and  filling.  The  prize  is  great.  Civilians,  quasi-military 
men,  etc.,  are  interested,  —  men  of  political  influence.  Dix 
has  made  three  distinct  visits  to  Washington  on  the  sub- 
ject. Some  of  his  staff  and  Treasury  agents  were  urgent. 
I  do  not  think  military  operations  at  Fortress  Monroe 
and  its  vicinity  were  suspended  or  that  they  suffered 
by  the  absence  of  Dix.  Repeated  discussions  took  place 
in  the  Cabinet.  My  determination  being  fixed,  it  became 
necessary  the  President  should  issue  an  order.  Chase  and 
Stanton  each  prepared  a  form  for  the  President  to  sign. 
Stanton's  was  adopted.  When  the  President  signed  it,  I 
proposed  that  Nicolay  should  make  duplicates,  one  for  me. 
Stanton  thought  it  unnecessary,  said  he  would  make  and 
send  me  a  perfect  copy  as  soon  as  he  reached  the  War 
Department.  This  was  on  Tuesday,  the  llth  of  November. 

184  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [DEC.  3 

On  Wednesday,  having  business  with  the  President,  I  asked 
if  he  retained  a  copy.  He  said  he  did  not,  but,  remem- 
bering Stanton's  promise  and  my  objections  to  the  pro- 
ceedings, he  manifested  his  surprise  that  Stanton  had 
failed  to  supply  me;  wished  me  to  call  on  Stanton  and 
get  it.  I  did  stop  at  the  War  Department  on  my  return. 
S.  professed  astonishment,  said  he  had  entirely  forgotten 
it,  that  it  was  in  his  pocket,  had  never  been  taken  out. 
On  Friday  morning,  the  14th,  I  received  from  Captain 
Turner,  senior  officer  at  Hampton  Roads,  a  letter  inclos- 
ing a  copy  of  the  President's  order,  with  a  letter  from 
Stanton  to  General  Dix  inclosing  it,  dated  the  very  day  on 
which  the  order  was  issued,  although  he  assured  me  the 
dispatch  was  in  his  pocket  wholly  forgotten.  The  copy 
which  he  sent  me  and  the  copy  from  the  naval  officer  at 
Hampton  Roads  reached  me  at  the  same  time.  Turner 
had  properly  refused  to  recognize  the  order  sent  by 
Stanton  as  authentic,  —  would  not  obey  it  unless  received 
through  the  Navy  Department.  It  is  unnecessary  to  com- 
ment further  than  to  say  there  was  something  more  than 
right  in  the  transaction. 

My  Annual  Report,  which  is  necessarily  long,  appears  to 
have  been  well  received.  The  New  York  papers  give  it  ap- 
proval, some  of  them  reluctant  approval.  The  Herald  says 
it  is  a  document  highly  creditable  to  the  country  but  not  to 
the  Secretary.  I  am  informed  this  article  is  by  Bartlett, 
who  continues  to  be  malignantly  angry  because  I  would 
not  purchase  vessels  through  his  agency.  He  confessed  to 
a  friend  that  he  had  been  disappointed  in  not  making  a 
hundred  thousand  dollars  through  the  Navy  Department, 
and  sent  me  word  that  I  should  feel  his  vengeance,  for  he 
controlled  the  New  York  press.  It  seems  the  papers  of  that 
city  are,  on  naval  matters,  shaped  and  directed  much  as  he 
wishes  and  said  they  should  be.  The  Times,  where  Thur- 
low  Weed  influences  the  pliant  Raymond,  says  the  Report 
is  too  much  in  detail,  is  not  what  it  should  be,  but  is  able, 
etc.  The  Evening  Post  says  nothing,  publishes  a  brief  sum- 

1862]      QUESTION   OF  NEW  NAVY  YARDS      185 

mary  only.  The  World  publishes  it  in  full  without  a  word 
of  comment.  The  National  Intelligencer  compliments  it 
highly,  and  so  do  several  of  the  Philadelphia  papers  which 
have  been  sent  me.  The  World  of  to-day  has  a  compli- 
mentary article  on  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy. 

Some  grumbling  I  anticipated  from  New  London  and 
its  vicinity  for  doing  my  duty.  I  last  March,  and  again 
in  June,  addressed  Congress  through  the  Navy  Committee 
on  the  need  of  a  suitable  navy  yard  and  establishment  for 
the  construction  of  iron  vessels  and  iron  armor.  The  sug- 
gestions drew  from  the  city  of  Philadelphia  an  offer  of 
League  Island.  I  thought,  if  the  latter  place  was  suitable, 
a  change  might  be  made  without  increasing  the  number  of 
yards.  Congress  authorized  me  to  accept  it,  but  Senator 
Foster  of  Connecticut  procured  a  condition  to  be  affixed 
that  the  Board  which  was  to  examine  League  Island  with 
a  view  of  substituting  it  for  the  most  limited  yard  should 
also  examine  and  report  on  the  harbor  of  New  London, 
and  the  Rhode  Island  Senators  had  a  further  proviso  that 
the  waters  of  Narragansett  Bay  should  be  also  examined 
by  the  same  board. 

For  an  iron  navy  yard  and  establishment  neither  myself 
nor  any  one  else  entertained  a  thought  of  New  London  or 
Narragansett  Bay,  nor  would  either  be  exactly  suitable 
for  iron  vessels  and  machinery;  fresh  water  is  essential. 
Neither  would  Congress  consent,  nor  does  the  country 
require  four  navy  yards  east  of  the  Hudson.  But  the  Board 
I  appointed  had  some  disagreement.  Admiral  Stringham, 
Chairman  of  the  Board,  and  a  resident  of  Brooklyn,  had 
a  rival  feeling  as  regards  Philadelphia,  and  a  partiality 
for  New  London,  where  he  had  studied  in  his  youth.  Pro- 
fessor Bache,  Superintendent  of  the  Coast  Survey,  who 
was  one  of  the  Board,  was  even  adroit.  The  Board  was 
divided,  and,  forgetful  of  the  great  object  in  view, — that 
of  an  establishment  for  iron  vessels  in  fresh  water  and  the 
suitability  of  League  Island,  —  a  majority  reported  that 
New  London  was  the  best  place  for  such  a  navy  yard.  Not 

186  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES         [DEC  3 

unlikely  the  fact  that  I  am  from  Connecticut  had  its  influ- 
ence with  some  of  them,  though  it  has  not  with  me.  I  am 
authorized  by  Congress  to  accept  League  Island  if  the 
Board  report  it  suitable,  but  I  am  not  authorized  to  accept 
of  New  London  or  Narragansett  Bay.  But  I  conclude  to 
take  no  final  step  without  giving  Congress  an  opportunity 
to  decide,  though  stating  I  propose  to  accept  of  League 
Island,  which  would  change  but  not  increase  the  number  of 
yards,  if  Congress  did  not  disapprove.  I  am  acting  for  the 
country,  not  for  any  section,  or  city,  or  set  of  speculators, 
and  though  I  have  a  partiality  for  my  State,  and  for  New 
London,  where  I  have  many  excellent  friends,  yet  I  should 
be  unworthy  of  my  place  were  I  to  permit  local  or  selfish 
interests  of  any  kind  to  control  me  against  what  is  really 
best  for  the  country.  But,  while  convinced  I  am  right,  and 
deserving  of  approval,  I  shall  encounter  censure  and  abuse 
in  quarters  where  I  desire  the  good  opinions  of  my  fellow 

December  4,  Thursday.  The  Members  of  Congress  from 
Minnesota  are  urging  the  President  vehemently  to  give 
his  assent  to  the  execution  of  three  hundred  Indian  cap- 
tives, but  they  will  not  succeed.  Undoubtedly  the  savage 
wretches  have  been  guilty  of  great  atrocities,  and  I  have  as 
little  doubt  the  stories  of  their  barbarities,  bad  enough  in 
themselves,  are  greatly  exaggerated.  What  may  have  been 
the  aggressions  and  provocations  which  led  the  Indians  on 
is  not  told  us.  When  the  intelligent  Representatives  of  a 
State  can  deliberately  besiege  the  Government  to  take  the 
lives  of  these  ignorant  barbarians  by  wholesale,  after  they 
have  surrendered  themselves  prisoners,  it  would  seem 
the  sentiments  of  the  Representatives  were  but  slightly 
removed  from  the  barbarians  whom  they  would  execute. 
The  Minnesotians  are  greatly  exasperated  and  threaten 
the  Administration  if  it  shows  clemency. 

Some  of  the  Members  of  Congress  begin  early  to  mani- 
fest a  perverse  and  bad  spirit.  Foremost  as  regards  the 

1862]    COUNT  GUROWSKI  AND   HIS  BOOK     187 

Navy,  of  which  he  should  be  the  friend  and  organ,  is  John 
P.  Hale,  Chairman  of  the  Senate  Naval  Committee.  He  is 
censorious  to  all  the  Administration,  but  especially  to  the 
Navy  Department,  which,  instead  of  supporting,  he  omits 
no  opportunity  to  assail  and  embarrass.  Calvert,  of  the 
House,  is  equally  virulent.  He  thinks  he  has  cause  to  be 
angry  with  me,  but  has  not  the  courage  and  manliness  to 
declare  the  reason  or  motive  which  governs  him.  Some 
months  since  he  made  application  to  me  to  order  the  re- 
turn of  one  or  two  slaves  who  were  on  the  Potomac  Flo- 
tilla, or  in  the  navy  yard,  to  his  sister,  who,  he  says,  is  a 
deserving  loyal  lady  residing  in  Virginia  near  the  Potomac. 
I  of  course  declined.  I  also  declined  appointing  some  one 
to  be  midshipman  under  the  general  clause,  whom  he 
wished  selected,  as  I  declined  in  many  similar  cases.  He  is 
also  dissatisfied  because  the  Naval  School  is  not  immedi- 
ately returned  to  Annapolis,  which  is  within  his  district. 

The  lowest  bidder  for  one  of  the  large  steamers  lives  at 
Chester.  Other  competitors  are  greatly  excited  and  charge 
him  with  being  disloyal.  This  charge  is,  I  think,  untrue, 
though  one  of  the  firm  is  a  Democrat  and  opposed  the 
election  of  President  Lincoln.  But  the  idea  of  exclusion 
or  favoritism  in  a  matter  of  this  kind,  and  in  disregard  of 
law,  is  absurd. 

Count  Adam  Gurowski,  a  Polish  exile,  who  has  been 
employed  as  a  clerk  in  the  State  Department,  has  pub- 
lished a  book  which  I  am  told  is  unsparing  in  its  assaults 
upon  almost  all  in  authority,  but  that  he  deals  gently  with 
me.  He  is  by  nature  a  grumbler,  ardent,  earnest,  rash,  vio- 
lent, unreasonable,  impracticable,  with  no  powers  of  right- 
fully discriminating  character;  nor  is  he  a  correct  judge  of 
measures  and  results.  I  have  neither  sought  nor  shunned 
him.  Under  no  circumstances  could  he  be  to  me  a  pleasant 
companion.  He  wants,  I  think,  to  be  frank  and  honest  in 
his  way,  to  be  truthful,  though  given  to  scandal ;  brave  he 
is  without  doubt,  a  rude,  rough  Polish  bear  who  is  courted 
and  flattered  by  a  set  of  extreme  partisans  that  delight  in 

188  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES         [DEC.  4 

listening  to  his  denunciations  of  public  men,  and  in  hearing 
his  enthusiastic  praises  in  broken  English  of  liberty.  He  is 
an  exile  for  good  and  bad  qualities,  a  martyr  to  his  opin- 
ions and  his  manners.  Seward  gave  him  a  clerkship,  — 
why  and  for  what  reason  I  never  understood,  for  his  com- 
panions and  intimates  are  Seward's  opponents,  and  the 
Count  himself  is  and  always  has  been  an  open,  persistent, 
undisguised  opponent  of  Seward  and  his  course.  The 
Count,  it  seems,  kept  a  journal  or  took  memoranda  while 
in  the  Department  and  wrote  scandal  and  hate  in  bad 
English,  which  he  has  printed. 

The  proposition  to  divide  the  State  of  Virginia  is  before 
Congress,  and  I  am  told  it  will  probably  be  successful.  I 
am  not  clear  as  to  its  expediency,  and  I  doubt  if  it  can  con- 
stitutionally be  done.  Certainly  the  time  is  not  auspicious 
for  such  a  step.  To  me  the  division  of  Virginia  at  this  time 
looks  like  a  step  towards  a  division  of  the  Union,  a  gen- 
eral break-up.  This  is  intuitive,  an  impression  without 
investigation.  Let  us  have  no  separations  or  divisions  at 

I  have  answered  two  resolutions,  petty  calls  of  Congress, 
in  relation  to  the  appointment  of  midshipmen.  There  are 
one  hundred  and  forty  vacancies,  chiefly  hi  consequence  of 
the  secession  of  the  Southern  States,  and  I  have  appointed 

Senator  Fessenden  has  been  to  see  me  in  the  case  of 
George  H.  Preble,  who  is  one  of  his  constituents  and  a 
neighbor,  who  is  dismissed  for  failure  to  do  his  duty  on  the 
4th  of  last  September,  when  he  permitted  the  steamer 
Oreto  (Florida)  to  run  the  blockade  at  Mobile.  Senator  F. 
thinks  injustice  has  been  done  Preble,  and  asks  that  he  be 
restored  and  then  tried  by  court  martial.  Told  him  this 
could  not  be  done  by  the  Department  or  the  President; 
that,  being  out  of  the  service,  there  was  but  one  way  of 
restoring  him,  and  that  was  by  a  new  appointment.  To  be 
reinstated,  the  President  must  nominate  and  the  Senate 
confirm.  The  act  of  confirmation  would  itself  absolve  him. 

1862]          COMMANDER  TREBLE'S  CASE          189 

The  Senate  would  not,  however,  confirm  a  man  with  guilt 
or  wrong  upon  him.  Fessenden  said  he  had  taken  a  differ- 
ent view;  thought  the  President  might  restore  without 
Congressional  action,  yet  seemed  confused  and  in  doubt. 
Wished  me  to  talk  with  Admirals  Smith  and  Dahlgren; 
says  the  officers  generally  justify  Preble,  who,  he  added,  is 
in  Washington  and  would  like  to  see  me.  I  requested  him 
to  call;  told  F.  my  view  of  the  case  was  unchanged,  but 
would  hear  and  give  consideration  to  anything  he  might 

Preble  called  the  next  day,  and  we  went  over  the  case. 
He  claims  he  did  his  whole  duty;  says  he  believed  the 
Oreto  was  an  English  vessel,  and  he  wished  to  keep  the 
peace,  was  perhaps  too  prudent.  I  told  him  that  in  his  zeal 
to  preserve  the  peace  he  forgot  his  duty  as  an  officer; 
that  he  had  been  placed  as  a  sentinel  before  the  harbor  of 
Mobile,  with  express  orders  to  prevent  ingress  or  egress, 
and  had,  in  not  obeying  these  orders,  failed  to  do  his  whole 
duty.  His  excuse  was  that  if  he  obeyed  his  orders  he  would 
hurt  somebody,  but  in  not  obeying  he  had  done  his  country 
and  the  service  great  injury;  that  the  excuse  did  not  become 
an  officer  and  would  not  justify  a  sentinel.  We  had  much 
discussion  on  this  point.  He  said  he  could  have  boarded 
and  sunk  the  Oreto,  but  suppose  he  had  done  so  and  she 
had  been  an  English  vessel  with  an  English  flag  above, 
what  would  have  been  the  consequences  to  himself?  I  as- 
sured him  the  Government  would  never  let  an  officer  suffer 
for  fidelity  in  obeying  orders  and  being  vigilant  in  per- 
forming his  duty;  that  it  would  have  been  better  for  him 
had  he  not  paused  to  consider  consequences  to  himself, 
better  for  the  country  had  he  strictly  obeyed  his  orders, 
and  even  if  the  Oreto  had  been  an  English  vessel  and  been 
sunk  by  him,  he  would  have  been  justified,  and  the  English- 
man condemned  for  his  temerity  in  violating  usage  and 
disregarding  the  warning  of  the  sentinel. 

The  subject  has  given  me  trouble,  and  I  sent  my  con- 
clusions by  Assistant  Secretary  Fox  to  Fessenden.  Fox, 

190  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [DEC.  4 

when  he  saw  Fessenden,  did  not  find  it  convenient  to  state 
his  errand,  but  requested  the  Senator  to  call  and  see  me, 
which  he  did  on  Tuesday  morning. 

I  informed  him  there  was  no  way  of  instituting  a  court 
martial  nor  even  a  court  of  inquiry.  The  officers  who  would 
be  required  as  witnesses  were  in  the  Gulf  and  could  not  be 
detached  from  indispensable  duty  and  brought  home  on 
such  an  errand.  That  under  the  circumstances  —  the 
feelings  of  himself  and  others  —  and  in  justice  to  both 
Preble  and  the  Government,  I  would  appoint  a  board  of 
officers,  who  should  take  the  three  reports  of  Commodore 
Preble  on  the  4th  and  6th  of  September  and  10th  of 
October,  —  being  his  own  statements  of  his  case  at  differ- 
ent dates,  —  and  say  whether  he  had  done  his  whole  duty 
as  he  claimed  and  in  conformity  with  the  articles  of  war. 
That  their  report  I  would  submit  to  the  President  to 
dispose  of,  and  thus  end  the  matter,  so  far  as  the  Navy 
Department  was  concerned.  He  asked  if  I  did  not  prefer 
the  certificates  of  other  officers.  I  replied  no,  neither  state- 
ments, witnesses,  nor  arguments  would  be  introduced,  no- 
thing but  Preble's  own  reports,  which  I  thought  all  he  or 
his  friends  could  require.  F.  was  a  little  nonplussed.  Said 
it  was  certainly  fair,  he  was  satisfied  with  such  submission 
and  presumed  P.  would  be. 

Within  an  hour  Preble  called;  said  that  Senator  F.  had 
informed  him  of  my  proposition  for  an  informal  court, 
which  he  thought  fair,  but  wished  Admiral  Farragut's  let- 
ter to  go  to  the  board,  as  F.  by  his  hasty  letter  had  made 
an  improper  prejudice  on  me.  I  assured  him  he  was  mis- 
taken, —  that  my  action  was  based  on  his  own  statement. 
What  I  proposed  was  a  board  that  should  take  his  own 
reports  and  decide  upon  the  same  evidence  as  the  Admiral 
and  I  had  done,  and  I  should  abide  their  conclusion.  The 
tribunal  would  necessarily  be  informal  and  composed  of 
men  whose  opinions,  if  they  had  formed  any,  were  un- 
known to  me  and  I  hoped  to  him  also. 

He  said  this  was  all  he  could  ask  or  expect,  but  intimated 

1862]  THE   DIVISION   OF  VIRGINIA  191 

it  might  relieve  me  of  responsibility  if  Admiral  Farragut's 
letter  was  included  in  the  submission.  I  said  no,  I  evaded 
no  honest  responsibility.  My  convictions  were  that  I  had 
done  right,  though  it  had  borne  hard  upon  him;  that  he  had 
been  in  fault  from  error  in  judgment,  rather  than  criminal 
intent,  but  the  injury  was  none  the  less,  and  the  example 
was  quite  necessary.  Without  assenting  to  my  views  he 
said  he  should  be  satisfied  with  the  judgment  of  the  board 
and  left  me. 

I  appointed  Admiral  Foote,  Commodore  Davis,  and 
Lieutenant-Commander  Phelps  and  shall  leave  the  matter 
in  their  hands. 

The  House  has  voted  to  create  and  admit  Western  Vir- 
ginia as  a  State.  This  is  not  the  time  to  divide  the  old 
Commonwealth.  The  requirements  of  the  Constitution 
are  not  complied  with,  as  they  in  good  faith  should  be,  by 
Virginia,  by  the  proposed  new  State,  nor  by  the  United 
States.  I  find  that  Blair,  with  whom  I  exchanged  a  word, 
is  opposed  to  it. 

We  have  news  of  a  movement  of  our  troops  at  Falmouth 
with  the  intention  of  crossing  the  Rappahannock  and 
attacking  the  Rebels. 

The  Rebel'  steamer  Alabama  was  at  Martinique  and 
escaped  the  San  Jacinto,  Commander  Ronckendorff ,  a  good 

December  12,  Friday.  The  board  in  Treble's  case  this 
day  reported  that  he  failed  to  do  his  whole  duty.  I  went 
immediately  and  read  it  to  the  President,  who  gave  it  his 

Some  conversation  in  Cabinet  respecting  the  proposed 
new  State  of  Western  Virginia.  The  bill  has  not  yet 
reached  the  President,  who  thinks  the  creation  of  this  new 
State  at  this  tune  of  doubtful  expediency. 

December  14,  Sunday.  There  has  been  fighting  for  two 
or  three  days  at  Fredericksburg,  and  our  troops  were  said 

192  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [DEC.  u 

to  have  crossed  the  river.  The  rumor  at  the  War  De- 
partment— and  I  get  only  rumor  —  is  that  our  troops 
have  done  well,  that  Burnside  and  our  generals  are  in  good 
spirits;  but  there  is  something  unsatisfactory,  or  not  en- 
tirely satisfactory,  in  this  intelligence,  or  in  the  method 
of  communicating  it.  When  I  get  nothing  clear  and  explicit 
at  the  War  Department  I  have  my  apprehensions.  They 
fear  to  admit  disastrous  truths.  Adverse  tidings  are  sup- 
pressed, with  a  deal  of  fuss  and  mystery,  a  shuffling  over 
of  papers  and  maps,  and  a  far-reaching  vacant  gaze  at 
something  undefined  and  indescribable. 

Burnside  is  on  trial.  I  have  my  fears  that  he  has  not  suf- 
ficient grasp  and  power  for  the  position  given  him,  or  the 
ability  to  handle  so  large  a  force;  but  he  is  patriotic,  and 
his  aims  are  right.  It  appears  to  me  a  mistake  to  fight  the 
enemy  hi  so  strong  a  position.  They  have  selected  then*  own 
ground,  and  we  meet  them  there.  Halleck  is  General-in- 
Chief,  but  no  one  appears  to  have  any  confidence  hi  his 
military  management,  or  thinks  him  able  to  advise  Burnside. 

Just  at  this  juncture  a  great  force  has  been  fitted  out  and 
sent  off  under  Banks.  It  has  struck  me  as  strange  that 
Banks  was  not  sent  up  James  River  with  a  gunboat  force. 
Such  a  movement  would  have  caused  a  diversion  on  the 
part  of  the  Rebels  and  have  thrown  them  into  some  con- 
fusion, by  compelling  them  to  draw  off  from  their  strong 
position  at  Fredericksburg.  But  to  send  an  army  up  James 
River,  from  which  he  has  just  withdrawn  McClellan, 
against  the  remonstrance  of  that  general  and  in  opposition 
to  the  opinion  of  many  good  officers,  would,  in  the  act 
itself,  be  a  confession  unpleasant  to  Halleck.  This  is 
the  aspect  of  things  to  me.  A  day  or  two  will  solve  the 
problem  of  this  generalship  and  military  management. 

Assistant  Secretary  Fox  had  yesterday  an  invitation  to 
dine  with  Lord  Lyons,  and  informed  me  before  he  went 
that  he  had  an  idea  or  intimation  there  was  a  wish  to  learn 
what  were  my  views  of  the  recent  slave  treaty.  I  told  him 
there  was  no  secret  or  ulterior  purpose  on  my  part,  and 

1862]          ONE  OF  SEWARD'S  SCHEMES  193 

that  my  opinions  were  frankly  stated  in  the  correspondence 
with  Seward.  Returning  in  the  evening,  Fox  called  at  my 
house  and  said  that  the  object  was  as  I  [sic]  had  supposed. 
After  hearing  from  Fox  what  my  views  were,  Lord  Lyons 
said  he  well  understood  and  rightly  appreciated  my  posi- 
tion, and  was  inclined  to  believe  I  was  correct.  Assured  of 
that  and  that  I  would  come  into  the  measure,  he  would 
assent  to  a  declaratory  or  supplementary  clause  ratifying 
the  matter,  and  make  the  belligerent  right  of  search  and 
the  treaty  right  of  search  compatible.  I  requested  Fox,  as 
they  had  sought  to  get  my  opinion  through  him,  to  let  Lord 
Lyons  and  Secretary  Seward  both  understand  that  I  had 
no  hidden  purpose  but  only  the  rights  of  the  country  in  view. 

This  whole  roundabout  proceeding  is  one  of  Seward's 
schemes  —  and  he  thinks  it  a  very  cunning  one — to  get 
his  mistake  rectified  without  acknowledging  his  error. 
Lord  Lyons  is  no  more  blind  to  this  trick  than  I  am. 

Wrote  Naval  Committee  on  Friday  respecting  the  con- 
struction of  some  large  steamers  for  cruising,  and,  if  neces- 
sary, offensive  purposes. 

December  15,  Monday.  No  news  from  Fredericksburg; 
and  no  news  at  this  time,  I  fear,  is  not  good  news. 

Secretary  Smith  called  on  me  to  unburden  his  mind.  He 
dislikes  Seward's  management,  and  the  general  course 
pursued  in  Cabinet  and  between  the  members  generally. 
Thinks  Seward  the  chief  cause  of  the  unfortunate  state  of 

Smith  tells  me  he  (Smith)  has  made  up  his  mind  to  leave 
the  Cabinet  and  accept  the  office  of  District  Judge,  which 
he  can  have. 

December  16,  Tuesday.  The  army  has  recrossed  the 
Rappahannock;  driven  back,  has  suffered  heavy  loss.  The 
shock  is  great,  and  it  is  difficult  to  get  any  particulars.  I 
fear  the  plan  was  not  a  wise  one. 

194  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [DEC.  19 

December  19,  Friday.  Soon  after  reaching  the  Depart- 
ment this  A.M.,  I  received  a  note  from  Nicolay,  the  Pre- 
sident's secretary,  requesting  me  to  attend  a  special 
Cabinet-meeting  at  half-past  ten.  All  the  members  were 
punctually  there  except  Seward. 

The  President  desired  that  what  he  had  to  communicate 
should  not  be  the  subject  of  conversation  elsewhere,  and 
proceeded  to  inform  us  that  on  Wednesday  evening,  about 
six  o'clock,  Senator  Preston  King  and  F.  W.  Seward  came 
into  his  room,  each  bearing  a  communication.  That  which 
Mr.  King  presented  was  the  resignation  of  the  Secretary  of 
State,  and  Mr.  F.  W.  Seward  handed  in  his  own.  Mr.  King 
then  informed  the  President  that  at  a  Republican  caucus 
held  that  day  a  pointed  and  positive  opposition  had 
shown  itself  against  the  Secretary  of  State,  which  termin- 
ated in  a  unanimous  expression,  with  one  exception,  against 
him  and  a  wish  for  his  removal.  The  feeling  finally  shaped 
itself  into  resolutions  of  a  general  character,  and  the  ap- 
pointment of  a  committee  of  nine  to  bear  them  to  the 
President,  and  to  communicate  to  him  the  sentiments  of 
the  Republican  Senators.  Mr.  King,  the  former  colleague 
and  the  personal  friend  of  Mr.  Seward,  being  also  from  the 
same  State,  felt  it  to  be  a  duty  to  inform  the  Secretary  at 
once  of  what  had  occurred.  On  receiving  this  information, 
which  was  wholly  a  surprise,  Mr.  Seward  immediately 
wrote,  and  by  Mr.  King  tendered  his  resignation.  Mr. 
King  suggested  it  would  be  well  for  the  committee  to  wait 
upon  the  President  at  an  early  moment,  and,  the  Secretary 
agreeing  with  him,  Mr.  King  on  Wednesday  morning  noti- 
fied Judge  Collamer,  the  chairman,  who  sent  word  to  the 
President  that  they  would  call  at  the  Executive  Mansion 
at  any  hour  after  six  that  evening,  and  the  President  sent 
word  he  would  receive  them  at  seven. 

The  committee  came  at  the  tune  specified,  and  the 
President  says  the  evening  was  spent  in  a  pretty  free  and 
animated  conversation.  No  opposition  was  manifested 
towards  any  other  member  of  the  Cabinet  than  Mr. 

1862]  SEWARD  RESIGNS  195 

Seward.  Some  not  very  friendly  feelings  were  shown 
towards  one  or  two  others,  but  no  wish  that  any  one 
should  leave  but  the  Secretary  of  State.  Him  they  charged, 
if  not  with  infidelity,  with  indifference,  with  want  of 
earnestness  in  the  War,  with  want  of  sympathy  with 
the  country  in  this  great  struggle,  and  with  many  things 
objectionable,  and  especially  with  a  too  great  ascendency 
and  control  of  the  President  and  measures  of  adminis- 
tration. This,  he  said,  was  the  point  and  pith  of  their 

The  President  says  that  in  reply  to  the  committee  he 
stated  how  this  movement  had  shocked  and  grieved  him; 
that  the  Cabinet  he  had  selected  in  view  of  impending  dif- 
ficulties and  of  all  the  responsibilities  upon  himself;  that  he 
and  the  members  had  gone  on  harmoniously,  whatever  had 
been  their  previous  party  feelings  and  associations;  that 
there  had  never  been  serious  disagreements,  though  there 
had  been  differences;  that  in  the  overwhelming  troubles  of 
the  country,  which  had  borne  heavily  upon  him,  he  had 
been  sustained  and  consoled  by  the  good  feeling  and  the 
mutual  and  unselfish  confidence  and  zeal  that  pervaded 
the  Cabinet. 

He  expressed  a  hope  that  there  would  be  no  combined 
movement  on  the  part  of  other  members  of  the  Cabinet  to 
resist  this  assault,  whatever  might  be  the  termination. 
Said  this  movement  was  uncalled  for,  that  there  was  no 
such  charge,  admitting  all  that  was  said,  as  should  break 
up  or  overthrow  a  Cabinet,  nor  was  it  possible  for  him  to 
go  on  with  a  total  abandonment  of  old  friends. 

Mr.  Bates  stated  the  difference  between  our  system  and 
that  of  England,  where  a  change  of  ministry  involved  a 
new  election,  dissolution  of  Parliament,  etc.  Three  or  four 
of  the  members  of  the  Cabinet  said  they  had  heard  of  the 
resignation:  Blair  the  day  preceding;  Stanton  through 
the  President,  on  whom  he  had  made  a  business  call; 
Mr.  Bates  when  coming  to  the  meeting. 

The  President  requested  that  we  should,  with  him,  meet 

196  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [DEC.  19 

the  committee.  This  did  not  receive  the  approval  of  Mr. 
Chase,  who  said  he  had  no  knowledge  whatever  of  the 
movement,  or  the  resignation,  until  since  he  had  entered 
the  room.  Mr.  Bates  knew  of  no  good  that  would  come  of 
an  interview.  I  stated  that  I  could  see  no  harm  in  it,  and 
if  the  President  wished  it,  I  thought  it  a  duty  for  us 
to  attend.  The  proceeding  was  of  an  extraordinary  char- 
acter. Mr.  Blair  thought  it  would  be  well  for  us  to  be 
present,  and  finally  all  acquiesced.  The  President  named 
half-past  seven  this  evening. 

December  20,  Saturday.  At  the  meeting  last  evening  there 
were  present  of  the  committee  Senators  Collamer,  Fes- 
senden,  Harris,  Trumbull,  Grimes,  Howard,  Sumner,  and 
Pomeroy.  Wade  was  absent.  The  President  and  all  the 
Cabinet  but  Seward  were  present.  The  subject  was  opened 
by  the  President,  who  read  the  resolutions  and  stated  the 
substance  of  his  interviews  with  the  committee, — their  ob- 
ject and  purpose.  He  spoke  of  the  unity  of  his  Cabinet,  and 
how,  though  they  could  not  be  expected  to  think  and  speak 
alike  on  all  subjects,  all  had  acquiesced  in  measures  when 
once  decided.  The  necessities  of  the  times,  he  said,  had 
prevented  frequent  and  long  sessions  of  the  Cabinet,  and 
the  submission  of  every  question  at  the  meetings. 

Secretary  Chase  indorsed  the  President's  statement 
fully  and  entirely,  but  regretted  that  there  was  not  a  more 
full  and  thorough  consideration  and  canvass  of  every 
important  measure  in  open  Cabinet. 

Senator  Collamer,  the  chairman  of  the  committee,  suc- 
ceeded the  President  and  calmly  and  fairly  presented  the 
views  of  the  committee  and  of  those  whom  they  repre- 
sented. They  wanted  united  counsels,  combined  wisdom, 
and  energetic  action.  If  there  is  truth  in  the  maxim  that 
in  a  multitude  of  counselors  there  is  safety,  it  might  be 
well  that  those  advisers  who  were  near  the  President  and 
selected  by  him,  and  all  of  whom  were  more  or  less  re- 
sponsible, should  be  consulted  on  the  great  questions  which 


affected  the  national  welfare,  and  that  the  ear  of  the 
Executive  should  be  open  to  all  and  that  he  should  have 
the  minds  of  all. 

Senator  Fessenden  was  skillful  but  a  little  tart;  felt, 
it  could  be  seen,  more  than  he  cared  to  say;  wanted  the 
whole  Cabinet  to  consider  and  decide  great  questions,  and 
that  no  one  in  particular  should  absorb  and  direct  the 
whole  Executive  action.  Spoke  of  a  remark  which  he  had 
heard  from  J.  Q.  Adams  on  the  floor  of  Congress  hi  regard 
to  a  measure  of  his  administration.  Mr.  Adams  said  the 
measure  was  adopted  against  his  wishes  and  opinion,  but 
he  was  outvoted  by  Mr.  Clay  and  others.  He  wished  an 
administration  so  conducted. 

Grimes,  Sumner,  and  Trumbull  were  pointed,  emphatic, 
and  unequivocal  in  their  opposition  to  Mr.  Seward,  whose 
zeal  and  sincerity  in  this  conflict  they  doubted;  each  was 
unrelenting  and  unforgiving. 

Blair  spoke  earnestly  and  well.  Sustained  the  President, 
and  dissented  most  decidedly  from  the  idea  of  a  plural 
Executive;  claimed  that  the  President  was  accountable 
for  his  administration,  might  ask  opinions  or  not  of  either 
and  as  many  as  he  pleased,  of  all  or  none,  of  his  Cabinet. 
Mr.  Bates  took  much  the  same  view. 

The  President  managed  his  own  case,  speaking  freely, 
and  showed  great  tact,  shrewdness,  and  ability,  provided 
such  a  subject  were  a  proper  one  for  such  a  meeting  and 
discussion.  I  have  no  doubt  he  considered  it  most  judi- 
cious to  conciliate  the  Senators  with  respectful  deference, 
whatever  may  have  been  his  opinion  of  their  interference. 
When  he  closed  his  remarks,  he  said  it  would  be  a  gratifica- 
tion to  him  if  each  member  of  the  committee  would  state 
whether  he  now  thought  it  advisable  to  dismiss  Mr. 
Seward,  and  whether  his  exclusion  would  strengthen  or 
weaken  the  Administration  and  the  Union  cause  in  their 
respective  States.  Grimes,  Trumbull,  and  Sumner,  who 
had  expressed  themselves  decidedly  against  the  continu- 
ance of  Mr.  Seward  in  the  Cabinet,  indicated  no  change  of 

198  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [DEC.  20 

opinion.  Collamer  and  Fessenden  declined  committing 
themselves  on  the  subject;  had  in  their  action  the  welfare 
of  the  whole  country  in  view;  were  not  prepared  to  answer 
the  questions.  Senator  Harris  felt  it  a  duty  to  say  that 
while  many  of  the  friends  of  the  Administration  would  be 
gratified,  others  would  feel  deeply  wounded,  and  the 
effect  of  Mr.  Seward's  retirement  would,  on  the  whole,  be 
calamitous  in  the  State  of  New  York.  Pomeroy  of  Kansas 
said,  personally,  he  believed  the  withdrawal  of  Mr.  Seward 
would  be  a  good  movement  and  he  sincerely  wished  it 
might  take  place.  Howard  of  Michigan  declined  answering 
the  question. 

During  the  discussion,  the  volume  of  diplomatic  corre- 
spondence, recently  published,  was  alluded  to;  some  letters 
denounced  as  unwise  and  impolitic  were  specified,  one  of 
which,  a  confidential  dispatch  to  Mr.  Adams,  was  read.  If  it 
was  unwise  to  write,  it  was  certainly  injudicious  and  indis- 
creet to  publish  such  a  document.  Mr.  Seward  has  genius 
and  talent, — no  one  better  knows  it  than  himself, —  but 
for  one  in  his  place  he  is  often  wanting  in  careful  discrim- 
ination, true  wisdom,  sound  judgment,  and  discreet  states- 
manship. The  committee  believe  he  thinks  more  of  the 
glorification  of  Seward  than  the  welfare  of  the  country. 
He  wishes  the  glorification  of  both,  and  believes  he  is  the 
man  to  accomplish  it,  but  has  unwittingly  and  unwarily 
begotten  and  brought  upon  himself  a  vast  amount  of  dis- 
trust and  hostility  on  the  part  of  Senators,  by  his  endeavors 
to  impress  them  and  others  with  the  belief  that  he  is  the 
Administration.  It  is  a  mistake;  the  Senators  dislike  it, — 
have  measured  and  know  him. 

It  was  nearly  midnight  when  we  left  the  President ;  and 
it  could  not  be  otherwise  than  that  all  my  wakeful  mo- 
ments should  be  absorbed  with  a  subject  which,  time  and 
circumstances  considered,  was  of  grave  importance  to  the 
Administration  and  the  country.  A  Senatorial  combina- 
tion to  dictate  to  the  President  in  regard  to  his  political 
family  in  the  height  of  a  civil  war  which  threatens  the 


existence  of  the  Republic  cannot  be  permitted  to  succeed, 
even  if  the  person  to  whom  they  object  were  as  obnoxious 
as  they  represent;  but  Seward's  foibles  are  not  serious 
failings.  After  fully  canvassing  the  subject  in  all  its  phases, 
my  mind  was  clear  as  to  the  course  which  it  was  my  duty 
to  pursue,  and  what  I  believed  was  the  President's  duty 

My  first  movement  this  morning'  was  to  call  on  the 
President  as  soon  as  I  supposed  he  could  have  breakfasted. 
Governor  Robertson  of  Kentucky  was  with  him  when  I 
went  in,  but  soon  left.  I  informed  the  President  I  had  pon- 
dered the  events  of  yesterday  and  last  evening,  and  felt  it 
incumbent  on  me  to  advise  him  not  to  accept  the  resigna- 
tion of  Mr.  Seward;  that  if  there  were  objections,  real  or 
imaginary,  against  Mr.  Seward,  the  time,  manner,  and  cir- 
cumstances —  the  occasion,  and  the  method  of  presenting 
what  the  Senators  considered  objections  —  were  all  inap- 
propriate and  wrong;  that  no  party  or  faction  should  be 
permitted  to  dictate  to  the  President  in  regard  to  his  Cabi- 
net; that  it  would  be  of  evil  example  and  fraught  with 
incalculable  injury  to  the  Government  and  country;  that 
neither  the  legislative  department,  nor  the  Senate  branch 
of  it,  should  be  allowed  to  encroach  on  the  Executive  pre- 
rogatives and  rights;  that  it  devolved  on  him  —  and  was 
his  duty  to  assert  and  maintain  the  rights  and  inde- 
pendence of  the  Executive;  that  he  ought  not,  against  his 
own  convictions,  to  yield  one  iota  of  the  authority  in- 
trusted to  him  on  the  demand  of  either  branch  of  Congress 
or  of  both  combined,  or  to  any  party,  whatever  might  be 
its  views  and  intentions;  that  Mr.  Seward  had  his  infirm- 
ities and  errors,  but  they  were  venial;  that  he  and  I  differed 
on  many  things,  as  did  other  members  of  the  Cabinet; 
that  he  was  sometimes  disposed  to  step  beyond  his  own 
legitimate  bounds  and  not  duly  respect  the  rights  of  his 
associates,  but  these  were  matters  that  did  not  call  for 
Senatorial  interference.  In  short,  I  considered  it  for  the 
true  interest  of  the  country,  now  as  in  the  future,  that 

200  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [DEC.  20 

this  scheme  should  be  defeated;  that,  so  believing,  I  had 
at  the  earliest  moment  given  him  my  conclusions. 

The  President  was  much  gratified ;  said  the  whole  thing 
had  struck  him  as  it  had  me,  and  if  carried  out  as  the  Sena- 
tors prescribed,  the  whole  Government  must  cave  in.  It 
could  not  stand,  could  not  hold  water;  the  bottom  would 
be  out. 

I  added  that,  having  expressed  my  wish  that  he  would 
not  accept  Mr.  Seward's  resignation,  I  thought  it  import- 
ant that  Seward  should  not  press  its  acceptance,  nor  did 
I  suppose  he  would.  In  this  he  also  concurred,  and  asked 
if  I  had  seen  Seward.  I  replied  I  had  not,  my  first  duty  was 
with  him,  and,  having  ascertained  that  we  agreed,  I  would 
now  go  over  and  see  him.  He  earnestly  desired  me  to  do  so. 

I  went  immediately  to  Seward's  house.  Stanton  was 
with  him.  Seward  was  excited,  talking  vehemently  to  Stan- 
ton  of  the  course  pursued  and  the  results  that  must  follow 
if  the  scheme  succeeded;  told  Stanton  he  (Stanton)  would 
be  the  next  victim,  that  there  was  a  call  for  a  meeting  at 
the  Cooper  Institute  this  evening.  Stanton  said  he  had 
seen  it;  I  had  not.  Seward  got  the  Herald,  got  me  to  read; 
but  Stanton  seized  the  paper,  as  Seward  and  myself  entered 
into  conversation,  and  he  related  what  the  President  had 
already  communicated,  —  how  Preston  King  had  come  to 
him,  he  wrote  his  resignation  at  once,  and  so  did  Fred,  etc., 
etc.  In  the  mean  time  Stanton  rose,  and  remarked  he  had 
much  to  do,  and,  as  Governor  S.  had  been  over  this  matter 
with  him,  he  would  leave. 

I  then  stated  my  interview  with  the  President,  my  ad- 
vice that  the  President  must  not  accept,  nor  he  press,  his 
resignation.  Seward  was  greatly  pleased  with  my  views; 
said  he  had  but  one  course  before  him  when  the  doings  of 
the  Senators  were  communicated,  but  that  if  the  President 
and  country  required  of  him  any  duty  in  this  emergency 
he  did  not  feel  at  liberty  to  refuse  it.  He  spoke  of  his 
long  political  experience ;  dwelt  on  his  own  sagacity  and 
his  great  services;  feels  deeply  this  movement,  which  was 

1862]  CHASE   RESIGNS  201 

wholly  unexpected;  tries  to  suppress  any  exhibition  of 
personal  grievance  or  disappointment,  but  is  painfully 
wounded,  mortified,  and  chagrined.  I  told  him  I  should  re- 
turn and  report  to  the  President  our  interview  and  that  he 
acquiesced  in  my  suggestions.  He  said  he  had  no  objec- 
tions, but  he  thought  the  subject  should  be  disposed  of  one 
way  or  the  other  at  once.  He  is  disappointed,  I  see,  that  the 
President  did  not  promptly  refuse  to  consider  his  resigna- 
tion, and  dismiss,  or  refuse  to  parley  with,  the  committee. 

When  I  returned  to  the  White  House,  Chase  and  Stan- 
ton  were  in  the  President's  office,  but  he  was  absent.  A 
few  words  were  interchanged  on  the  great  topic  in  hand. 
I  was  very  emphatic  in  my  opposition  to  the  acceptance 
of  Seward's  resignation.  Neither  gave  me  a  direct  answer 
nor  did  either  express  an  opinion  on  the  subject,  though 
I  think  both  wished  to  be  understood  as  acquiescing. 

When  the  President  came  in,  which  was  in  a  few  mo- 
ments, his  first  address  was  to  me,  asking  if  I  "had  seen 
the  man."  I  replied  that  I  had,  and  that  he  assented  to 
my  views.  He  then  turned  to  Chase  and  said,  "I  sent  for 
you,  for  this  matter  is  giving  me  great  trouble."  At  our 
first  interview  this  morning  the  President  rang  and  directed 
that  a  message  be  sent  to  Mr.  Chase.  Chase  said  he  had 
been  painfully  affected  by  the  meeting  last  evening,  which 
was  a  total  surprise  to  him,  and,  after  some  not  very 
explicit  remarks  as  to  how  he  was  affected,  informed  the 
President  he  had  prepared  his  resignation  of  the  office  of 
Secretary  of  the  Treasury.  " Where  is  it?"  said  the  Presi- 
dent quickly,  his  eye  lighting  up  in  a  moment.  "I  brought 
it  with  me,"  said  Chase,  taking  the  paper  from  his  pocket; 
"I  wrote  it  this  morning."  "Let  me  have  it,"  said  the 
President,  reaching  his  long  arm  and  fingers  towards  C., 
who  held  on,  seemingly  reluctant  to  part  with  the  letter, 
which  was  sealed,  and  which  he  apparently  hesitated  to 
surrender.  Something  further  he  wished  to  say,  but  the 
President  was  eager  and  did  not  perceive  it,  but  took  and 
hastily  opened  the  letter. 

202  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [DEC.  20 

"This,"  said  he,  looking  towards  me  with  a  triumphal 
laugh,  "cuts  the  Gordian  knot."  An  air  of  satisfaction 
spread  over  his  countenance  such  as  I  have  not  seen  for 
some  time.  "I  can  dispose  of  this  subject  now  without 
difficulty,"  he  added,  as  he  turned  on  his  chair;  "I  see  my 
way  clear." 

Chase  sat  by  Stanton,  fronting  the  fire;  the  President 
beside  the  fire,  his  face  towards  them,  Stanton  nearest 
him.  I  was  on  the  sofa  near  the  east  window.  While  the 
President  was  reading  the  note,  which  was  brief,  Chase 
turned  round  and  looked  towards  me,  a  little  perplexed. 
He  would,  I  think,  have  been  better  satisfied  could  this 
interview  with  the  President  have  been  without  the  pre- 
sence of  others,  or  at  least  if  I  was  away.  The  President 
was  so  delighted  that  he  saw  not  how  others  were  affected. 

"Mr.  President,"  said  Stanton,  with  solemnity,  "I  in- 
formed you  day  before  yesterday  that  I  was  ready  to 
tender  you  my  resignation.  I  wish  you,  sir,  to  consider  my 
resignation  at  this  time  in  your  possession." 

"You  may  go  to  your  Department,"  said  the  President; 
"I  don't  want  yours.  This,"  holding  out  Chase's  letter, 
"is  all  I  want;  this  relieves  me;  my  way  is  clear;  the  trouble 
is  ended.  I  will  detain  neither  of  you  longer."  We  all  rose 
to  leave,  but  Stanton  lingered  and  held  back  as  we  reached 
the  door.  Chase  and  myself  came  downstairs  together.  He 
was  moody  and  taciturn.  Some  one  stopped  him  on  the 
lower  stairs  and  I  passed  on,  but  C.  was  not  a  minute 
behind  me,  and  before  I  reached  the  Department,  StantoD 
came  staving  along. 

Preston  King  called  at  my  house  this  evening  and  gave 
me  particulars  of  what  had  been  said  and  done  at  the  cau- 
cuses of  the  Republican  Senators,  —  of  the  surprise  he  felt 
when  he  found  the  hostility  so  universal  against  Seward, 
and  that  some  of  the  calmest  and  most  considerate  Sena- 
tors were  the  most  decided;  stated  the  course  pursued  by 
himself,  which  was  frank,  friendly,  and  manly.  He  was 
greatly  pleased  with  my  course,  of  which  he  had  been 


informed  by  Seward  and  the  President  in  part;  and  I  gave 
him  some  facts  which  they  did  not.  Blair  tells  me  that  his 
father's  views  correspond  with  mine,  and  the  approval  of 
F.  P.  Blair  and  Preston  King  gives  me  assurance  that  I  am 

Montgomery  Blair  is  confident  that  Stanton  has  been 
instrumental  in  getting  up  this  movement  against  Seward 
to  screen  himself,  and  turn  attention  from  the  manage- 
ment of  the  War  Department.  There  may  be  something  in 
this  surmise  of  Blair;  but  I  am  inclined  to  think  that  Chase, 
Stanton,  and  Caleb  Smith  have  each,  but  without  concert, 
participated,  if  not  directly,  by  expressions  of  discontent 
to  their  Senatorial  intimates.  Chase  and  Smith,  I  know, 
are  a  good  deal  dissatisfied  with  Seward  and  have  not  hesi- 
tated to  make  known  their  feelings  in  some  quarters, 
though,  I  apprehend,  not  to  the  President.  With  Stanton 
I  have  little  intimacy.  He  came  into  the  Cabinet  under 
Seward's  wing,  and  he  knows  it,  but  Stanton  is,  by  nature, 
an  intriguer,  courts  favor,  is  not  faithful  hi  his  friendships, 
is  given  to  secret,  underhand  combinations.  His  obliga- 
tions to  Seward  are  great,  but  would  not  deter  him  from 
raising  a  breeze  against  Seward  to  favor  himself.  Chase 
and  Seward  entered  the  Cabinet  as  rivals,  and  in  cold 
courtesy  have  so  continued.  There  was  an  effort  by 
Seward's  friends  to  exclude  Chase  from  the  Treasury; 
the  President  did  not  yield  to  it,  but  it  is  obvious  that 
Seward's  more  pleasant  nature  and  consummate  skill  have 
enabled  him  to  get  to  windward  of  Chase  in  administrative 
management,  and  the  latter,  who  has  but  little  tact,  feels 
it.  Transactions  take  place  of  a  general  character,  not 
unfrequently,  of  which  Chase  and  others  are  not  advised 
until  they  are  made  public.  Often  the  fact  reaches  them 
through  the  papers.  Seward  has  not  exhibited  shrewdness 
in  this,  [though]  it  may  have  afforded  him  a  temporary 
triumph  as  regarded  Chase,  and  he  doubtless  flatters  him- 
self that  it  strengthens  a  belief  which  he  desires  should  pre- 
vail that  he  is  the  "power  behind  the  throne  greater  than 

204  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [DEC.  20 

the  throne  itself,"  that  he  is  the  real  Executive.  The  re- 
sult of  all  this  has  been  the  alienation  of  a  portion  of  his  old 
friends  without  getting  new  ones,  and  finally  this  appoint- 
ment of  a  committee  which  asked  his  removal.  The  objec- 
tions urged  are,  I  notice,  the  points  on  which  Chase  is 
most  sensitive. 

For  two  or  three  months  Stanton  has  evinced  a  grow- 
ing indifference  to  Seward,  with  whom  he  was,  at  first, 
intimate  and  to  whom  he  was  much  devoted.  I  have 
observed  that,  as  he  became  alienated  towards  Seward, 
his  friendship  for  Chase  increased. 

My  differences  with  Seward  I  have  endeavored  to  settle 
with  him  in  the  day  and  time  of  their  occurrences.  They 
have  not  been  many,  but  they  have  been  troublesome  and 
annoying  because  they  were  meddlesome  and  disturbing. 
He  gets  behind  me,  tampers  with  my  subordinates,  and 
interferes  injuriously  and  ignorantly  in  naval  matters,  not 
so  much  from  wrong  purposes,  but  as  a  busybody  by 
nature.  I  have  not  made  these  matters  subjects  of  com- 
plaint outside  and  think  it  partly  the  result  of  usage  and 
practice  at  Albany. 

I  am  also  aware  that  he  and  his  friend  Thurlow  Weed 
were  almost  as  much  opposed  to  my  entering  the  Cabinet 
as  they  were  to  Chase.  They  wanted  a  fraternity  of 
Seward  men.  The  President  discerned  this  and  put  it 
aside.  But  he  has  not  so  readily  detected,  nor  been  aware 
of  the  influence  which  Seward  exercises  over  him,  often 
unfortunately.  In  his  intercourse  with  his  colleagues,  save 
the  rivalry  between  himself  and  Chase  and  the  supercilious 
self-assumption  which  he  sometimes  displays,  he  has 
been  courteous,  affable,  and,  I  think,  anxious  to  preserve 
harmony  in  the  Cabinet.  I  have  seen  no  effort  to  get  up 
combinations  for  himself  personally,  or  against  others.  He 
supposed  himself  immensely  popular  at  the  moment  when 
friends  were  estranged,  and  was  as  surprised  as  myself 
when  he  learned  the  Senatorial  movement  for  his  over- 

1862]  THE  PRESIDENT'S  WAY  OUT  205 

December  23,  Tuesday.  It  was  announced  yesterday 
morning  that  the  President  had  requested  Mr.  Seward  and 
Mr.  Chase  to  withdraw  their  resignations  and  resume  their 
duties.  This  took  the  public  by  surprise.  Chase's  resignation 
was  scarcely  known,  and  his  friends,  particularly  those  in 
the  late  movement,  were  a  little  disgusted  when  they 
found  that  he  and  Seward  were  in  the  same  category. 

Seward's  influence  has  often  been  anything  but  salutary. 
Not  that  he  was  evil  inclined,  but  he  is  meddlesome,  fussy, 
has  no  fixed  principles  or  policy.  Chase  has  chafed  under 
Seward's  management,  yet  has  tried  to  conceal  any  ex- 
hibition of  irritated  feelings.  Seward,  assuming  to  be 
helmsman,  has,  while  affecting  and  believing  in  his  own 
superiority,  tried  to  be  patronizing  to  all,  especially  sooth- 
ing and  conciliating  to  Chase,  who  sees  and  is  annoyed  by 
it.  The  President  feels  that  he  is  under  obligations  to  each, 
and  that  both  are  serviceable.  He  is  friendly  to  both. 
He  is  fond  of  Seward,  who  is  affable;  he  respects  Chase, 
who  is  clumsy.  Seward  comforts  him;  Chase  he  deems 
a  necessity.  ^ 

On  important  questions,  Blair  is  as  potent  with  the 
President  as  either,  and  sometimes  I  think  equal  to  both. 
With  some  egotism,  Blair  has  great  good  sense,  a  better 
knowledge  and  estimate  of  military  men  than  either  or 
both  the  others,  and,  I  think,  is  possessed  of  more  solid, 
reliable  administrative  ability. 

All  the  members  were  at  the  Cabinet-meeting  to-day. 
Seward  was  feeling  very  happy.  Chase  was  pale;  said  he 
was  ill,  had  been  for  weeks.  The  subject  principally  dis- 
cussed was  the  proposed  division  of  Virginia  and  the  crea- 
tion of  a  new  State  to  be  called  Western  Virginia.  Chase  is 
strongly  for  it;  Blair  and  Bates  against  it,  the  latter,  how- 
ever, declining  to  discuss  it  or  give  his  reasons  except  in 
writing.  Stanton  is  with  Chase.  Seward  does  not  show  his 
hand.  My  impressions  are,  under  the  existing  state  of 
things,  decidedly  adverse.  It  is  a  disturbance  that  might 
be  avoided  at  this  time  and  has  constitutional  difficulties. 

206  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [DEC.  23 

We  have  news  that  General  Foster  has  possession  of 
Goldsborough,  North  Carolina. 

December  24,  Wednesday.  Congress  has  adjourned  over 
until  the  5th  of  January.  It  is  as  well,  perhaps,  though 
I  should  not  have  advised  it.  But  the  few  real  business 
men,  of  honest  intentions,  will  dispatch  matters  about  as 
well  and  fast  without  as  with  them.  The  demagogues  in 
Congress  disgrace  the  body  and  the  country.  Noisy  and 
loud  professions,  with  no  useful  policy  or  end,  exhibit 
themselves  daily. 

Most  of  the  Members  will  go  home.  Dixon  says  the 
feeling  North  is  strong  and  emphatic  against  Stanton,  and 
that  the  intrigue  against  Seward  was  to  cover  and  shield 
Stanton.  Others  say  the  same.  Doolittle,  though  less  full 
and  explicit,  has  this  opinion.  Fox  tells  me  that  Grimes 
declares  his  object  was  an  onslaught  on  Stanton.  If  so,  it 
was  a  strange  method.  Grimes  went  over  the  whole  debate 
in  caucus  with  F. ;  said  he  believed  opposition  manifested 
itself  in  some  degree  towards  every  member  of  the  Cabinet 
but  myself;  that  towards  one  or  two  only  slight  exhibi- 
tions of  dislike  appeared,  and  most  were  well  sustained. 
All  who  spoke  were  complimentary  of  me  and  the  naval 
management,  but  Hale,  while  he  uttered  no  complaint, 
was  greatly  annoyed  with  the  compliments  of  myself  and 
the  quiet  but  efficient  conduct  of  the  Navy. 

December  26,  Friday.  Some  talk  in  Cabinet  of  Thayer's 
scheme  of  emigration  to  Florida.1 

Blah*  read  his  opinion  of  the  proposition  for  making  a 
new  State  of  Western  Virginia.  His  views  correspond  with 
mine,  but  are  abler  and  more  elaborately  stated.  Mr. 
Bates  read  a  portion  of  his  opinion  on  the  constitutional 

1  This  was  a  proposal  to  colonize  Florida  with  loyal  citizens  from  the 
North.  Its  author  was  Eli  Thayer,  whose  Emigrant  Aid  Company  had 
been  largely  instrumental  in  making  Kansas  a  Free  State.  He  afterwards 
advocated  it  in  a  public  speech  at  the  Cooper  Institute,  New  York,  Feb- 
ruary 7,  1863. 

1862]    DEPREDATIONS  OF  THE  ALABAMA     207 

point,  which  appeared  to  me  decisive  and  conclusive.  The 
President  has  called  for  opinions  from  each  of  his  Cabinet. 
I  had  the  first  rough  draft  of  mine  in  my  pocket,  though 
not  entirely  copied.  Chase  said  his  was  completed,  but  he 
had  not  brought  it  with  him.  Seward  said  he  was  wholly 
unprepared.  Stanton  assured  the  President  he  would  be 
ready  with  his  in  season.  The  President  said  it  would  answer 
his  purpose  if  the  opinions  of  each  were  handed  in  on  or 
before  Tuesday. 

December  29,  Monday.  We  had  yesterday  a  telegram 
that  the  British  pirate  craft  Alabama  captured  the  Ariel, 
one  of  the  Aspinwall  steamers,  on  her  passage  from  New 
York  to  Aspinwall,  off  the  coast  of  Cuba.  Abuse  of  the 
Navy  Department  will  follow.  It  will  give  the  mercenaries 
who  are  prostituted  correspondents,  and  who  have  not 
been  permitted  to  plunder  the  Government  by  fraudulent 
contracts,  an  opportunity  to  wreak  vengeance  for  their 

I  am  exceedingly  glad  it  was  an  outward  and  not  a  home- 
ward bound  vessel.  It  is  annoying  when  we  want  all  our 
force  on  blockade  duty  to  be  compelled  to  detach  so  many 
of  our  best  craft  on  the  fruitless  errand  of  searching  the 
wide  ocean  for  this  wolf  from  Liverpool.  We  shall,  how- 
ever, have  a  day  of  reckoning  with  Great  Britain  for  these 
wrongs,  and  I  sometimes  think  I  care  not  how  soon  nor  in 
what  manner  that  reckoning  comes. 

A  committee  has  been  appointed  by  the  Legislature  of 
Connecticut,  of  eight  persons,  to  visit  Washington  and  urge 
the  selection  of  New  London  for  a  navy  yard.  Twelve 
hundred  dollars  are  appropriated  to  defray  their  expenses. 
There  has  been  no  examination  by  the  Legislature  of  the 
question,  or  investigation  of  the  comparative  merits  of 
this  and  other  places,  or  whether  an  additional  yard  is 
needed,  or  what  the  real  interest  of  the  country  requires; 
but  there  is,  with  excusable  local  pride,  a  speculating  job 
by  a  few  individuals  and  a  general  idea  that  a  government 

208  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [DEC.  29 

establishment  for  the  expenditure  of  money  will  benefit  the 
locality,  which  controls  the  movement.  As  I  am  a  citizen  of 
Connecticut,  there  is  a  hope  that  I  may  be  persuaded  by 
personal  considerations  to  debase  myself, — forget  my  duty 
and  make  this  selection  for  that  locality  regardless  of  the 
wants  or  true  interests  of  the  country.  I  have  proposed  to 
transfer  the  limited  and  circumscribed  yard  at  Philadel- 
phia to  League  Island,  where  there  is  an  abundance  of 
room,  fresh  water,  and  other  extraordinary  advantages. 
We  do  not  want  more  yards,  certainly  not  east  of  the  Hud- 
son. We  do  need  a  government  establishment  of  a  different 
character  from  any  we  now  have,  for  the  construction, 
repair,  and  preservation  of  iron  vessels.  League  Island  on 
the  Delaware  combines  all  these  required  advantages,  is 
far  in  the  interior,  remote  from  assault  in  war,  and  is  in  the 
vicinity  of  iron  and  coal,  is  away  from  the  sea,  etc.,  etc. 
New  London  has  none  of  these  advantages,  but  is  located 
in  my  native  State.  My  friends  and  my  father's  friends 
are  there,  and  I  am  urged  to  forget  my  country  and  favor 
that  place.  A  navy  yard  is  for  no  one  State,  but  this  the 
Legislature  and  its  committee  and  thousands  of  their 
constituents  do  not  take  into  consideration;  but  I  must. 

The  six  members  of  the  Cabinet  (Smith  absent)  to-day 
handed  in  their  respective  opinions  on  the  question  of 
dividing  the  old  Commonwealth  of  Virginia  and  carving 
out  and  admitting  a  new  State.  As  Stanton  and  myself 
returned  from  the  Cabinet-meeting  to  the  Departments, 
he  expressed  surprise  that  I  should  oppose  division,  for  he 
thought  it  politic  and  wise  to  plant  a  Free  State  south  of 
the  Ohio.  I  thought  our  duties  were  constitutional,  not 
experimental,  that  we  should  observe  and  preserve  the 
landmarks,  and  that  mere  expediency  should  not  override 
constitutional  obligations.  This  action  was  not  predicated 
on  the  consent  of  the  people  of  Virginia,  legitimately  ex- 
pressed; was  arbitrary  and  without  proper  authority;  was 
such  a  departure  from,  and  an  undermining  of,  our  system 
that  I  could  not  approve  it  and  feared  it  was  the  beginning 

1862]       THE  WEST  VIRGINIA  QUESTION        209 

of  the  end.  As  regarded  a  Free  State  south  of  the  Ohio,  I 
told  him  the  probabilities  were  that  pretty  much  all  of 
them  would  be  free  by  Tuesday  when  the  Proclamation 
emancipating  slaves  would  be  published.  The  Rebels  had 
appealed  to  arms  hi  vindication  of  slavery,  were  using 
slaves  to  carry  on  the  War,  and  they  must  be  content  with 
the  results  of  that  issue;  the  arbitrament  of  arms  to  which 
they  had  appealed  would  be  against  them.  This  measure, 
I  thought,  we  were  justified  in  adopting  on  the  issue  pre- 
sented and  as  a  military  necessity,  but  the  breaking  up  of 
a  State  by  the  General  Government  without  the  prescribed 
forms,  innate  rights,  and  the  consent  of  the  people  fairly 
and  honestly  expressed,  was  arbitrary  and  wrong.  Stanton 
attempted  no  defense. 

At  the  meeting  to-day,  the  President  read  the  draft  of 
his  Emancipation  Proclamation,  invited  criticism,  and 
finally  directed  that  copies  should  be  furnished  to  each. 
It  is  a  good  and  well-prepared  paper,  but  I  suggested  that 
a  part  of  the  sentence  marked  in  pencil  be  omitted.1  Chase 
advised  that  fractional  parts  of  States  ought  not  to  be 
exempted.  In  this  I  think  he  is  right,  and  so  stated.  Prac- 
tically there  would  be  difficulty  in  freeing  parts  of  States, 
and  not  freeing  others,  —  a  clashing  between  central  and 
local  authorities. 

There  is  discontent  in  the  public  mind.  The  manage- 
ment of  our  public  affairs  is  not  satisfactory.  Our  army 
operations  have  been  a  succession  of  disappointments. 
General  Halleck  has  accomplished  nothing,  and  has  not 
the  public  confidence.  General  McClellan  has  intelligence 
but  not  decision;  operated  understandingly  but  was  never 
prepared.  With  General  Halleck  there  seems  neither  mil- 
itary capacity  nor  decision.  I  have  not  heard  nor  seen 
a  clear  and  satisfactory  proposition  or  movement  on  his 
part  yet. 

Information  reaches  us  that  General  Butler  has  been 
superseded  at  New  Orleans  by  General  Banks.  The  wis- 
1  Just  what  this  suggestion  referred  to  does  not  appear. 

210  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [DEC.  29 

dom  of  this  change  I  question,  and  so  told  the  President, 
who  called  on  me  one  day  last  week  and  discussed  matters 
generally.  I  have  not  a  very  exalted  opinion  of  the  military 
qualities  of  either.  Butler  has  shown  ability  as  a  police 
magistrate  both  at  Baltimore  and  New  Orleans,  and  in 
each,  but  particularly  at  the  latter  place,  has  had  a  pecul- 
iar community  to  govern.  The  Navy  captured  the  place 
and  turned  it  over  to  his  keeping.  The  President  agreed 
with  me  that  Butler  had  shown  skill  in  discharging  his  civil 
duties,  and  said  he  had  in  view  for  Butler  the  command  of 
the  valley  movement  in  the  Mississippi.  Likely  he  has  this 
in  view,  but  whether  Halleck  will  acquiesce  is  more  ques- 
tionable. I  have  reason  to  believe  that  Seward  has  effected 
this  change,  and  that  he  has  been  prompted  by  the  for- 
eigners to  do  it.  Outside  the  State  and  War  Departments, 
I  apprehend  no  one  was  consulted.  I  certainly  was  not,  and 
therefore  could  not  apprize  any  of  our  naval  officers,  who 
are  cooperating  with  the  army  and  by  courtesy  and  right 
should  have  been  informed.  Banks  has  some  ready  qual- 
ities for  civil  administration  and,  if  not  employed  hi  the 
field  or  active  military  operations,  will  be  likely  to  acquit 
himself  respectably  as  a  provisional  or  military  governor. 
He  has  not  the  energy,  power,  ability  of  Butler,  nor, 
though  of  loose  and  fluctuating  principles,  will  he  be  so 
reckless  and  unscrupulous.  The  officer  in  command  in  that 
quarter  must  necessarily  hold  a  taut  rein. 

December  31,  Wednesday.  We  had  an  early  and  special 
Cabinet-meeting,  convened  at  10  A.M.  The  subject  was 
the  Proclamation  of  to-morrow  to  emancipate  the  slaves 
in  the  Rebel  States.  Seward  proposed  two  amendments, 
— one  including  mine,  and  one  enjoining  upon,  instead  of 
appealing  to,  those  emancipated,  to  forbear  from  tumult. 
Blair  had,  like  Seward  and  myself,  proposed  the  omission 
of  a  part  of  a  sentence  and  made  other  suggestions  which  I 
thought  improvements.  Chase  made  some  good  criticisms 
and  proposed  a  felicitous  closing  sentence.  The  President 

1862]  THE   SPIRIT  OF  PARTY  211 

took  the  suggestions,  written  in  order,  and  said  he  would 
complete  the  document. 

I  met  General  Burnside  on  the  portico  of  the  White 
House  this  A.M.  He  was  about  entering  his  carriage,  but 
waited  my  coming.  Says  he  is  here  a  witness  in  Fitz  John 
Porter's  case. 

The  year  closes  less  favorably  than  I  had  hoped  and 
expected,  yet  some  progress  has  been  made.  It  is  not  to  be 
denied,  however,  that  the  national  ailment  seems  more 
chronic.  The  disease  is  deep-seated.  Energetic  measures 
are  necessary,  and  I  hope  we  may  have  them.  None  of  us 
appear  to  do  enough,  and  yet  I  am  surprised  that  we  have 
done  so  much.  We  have  had  some  misfortunes,  and  a  lurk- 
ing malevolence  exists  towards  us  among  nations,  that 
could  not  have  been  anticipated.  Worse  than  this,  the 
envenomed,  relentless,  and  unpatriotic  spirit  of  party 
paralyzes  and  weakens  the  hand  of  the  Government  and 


The  Emancipation  Proclamation  —  The  Battle  of  Murfreesborough  —  Loss 
•  of  the  Monitor  —  Criticisms  of  the  Navy  Department  —  Halleck's 
Deficiencies  —  The  Employment  of  the  Contrabands  —  John  Covode's 
Gubernatorial  Aspirations  —  The  Pernicious  Party  Spirit  —  McCler- 
nand  and  Vicksburg  —  The  Court  Martial  on  Fitz  John  Porter  —  The 
New  London  Navy  Yard  Question  —  Confederate  Letters  —  Fitz  John 
Porter's  Conviction  —  A  Call  from  F.  A.  Conkling  —  The  Gauge  of 
the  Pacific  Railroad  —  Hooker  placed  in  command  of  the  Army  of  the 
Potomac  —  An  Estimate  of  Farragut  —  "Weed  is  Seward,  and  Seward 
is  Weed"  —  Governor  Morgan  elected  Senator  from  New  York  — Re- 
ported Pressure  for  Mediation  on  the  Part  of  the  French  Government 
—  Proposed  Attack  on  Charleston  —  Chase's  Bank  Bill  —  The  Senate 
rejects  the  Reappointment  of  Collector  Howard  —  Irregular  Acts  of  the 
President  —  Scene  between  Scott,  McClellan,  and  Seward. 

January  1,  1863,  Thursday.  The  New  Year  opens  with 
a  bright  and  brilliant  day.  Exchanged  congratulations  at 
the  Executive  Mansion  with  the  President  and  colleagues, 
at  eleven  this  morning.  The  usual  formalities.  Officers  of 
the  Army  and  Navy  came  in  at  half-past  eleven.  I  left 
before  twelve. 

The  Emancipation  Proclamation  is  published  in  this 
evening's  Star.  This  is  a  broad  step,  and  will  be  a  land- 
mark in  history.  The  immediate  effect  will  not  be  all 
its  friends  anticipate  or  its  opponents  apprehend.  Pass- 
ing events  are  steadily  accomplishing  what  is  here  pro- 

The  character  of  the  country  is  in  many  respects  under- 
going a  transformation.  This  must  be  obvious  to  all,  and 
I  am  content  to  await  the  results  of  passing  events,  deep 
as  they  may  plough  their  furrows  in  our  once  happy  land. 
This  great  upheaval  which  is  shaking  our  civil  fabric  was 
perhaps  necessary  to  overthrow  and  subdue  the  mass  of 
wrong  and  error  which  no  trivial  measure  could  eradicate. 
The  seed  which  is  being  sown  will  germinate  and  bear 

1863]      BATTLE   OF  MURFREESBOROUGH       213 

fruit,  and  tares  and  weeds  will  also  spring  up  under  the 
new  dispensation. 

Blair  mentioned  at  my  house  a  few  evenings  since  that 
General  McClellan  assumed  command  of  the  Army  of  the 
Potomac  last  September  without  orders;  that,  finding 
military  affairs  in  a  disordered  and  confused  condition,  he 
sought  an  interview  with  the  President,  Stanton,  and  Hal- 
leek  respectively,  and  also  called  to  see  him  (Blair),  but  he 
was  absent;  that  he  then  called  his  staff  and  left,  but  met 
me,  to  whom  alone  he  communicated  whither  he  was  going 
and  his  purpose.  This,  Blair  tells  me,  is  the  statement  made 
by  McClellan  to  Governor  Dennison,  who  has  been  stopping 
with  Blair.  I  well  remember  meeting  him  at  that  time,  but 
my  understanding  has  been  that  McC.  received  command 
of  the  Army  by  order  of  the  President  on  recommendation 
of  Halleck. 

January  3,  Saturday.  We  have,  yesterday  and  to-day, 
broken  accounts  of  a  great  fight  for  three  days  —  and  not 
yet  terminated  —  at  Murfreesborough,  Tennessee.  All 
statements  say  we  have  the  best,  that  we  shall  beat  the 
Rebels,  that  we  have  pierced  their  centre,  that  we  are  driv- 
ing them  through  M.,  etc.  I  hope  to  hear  we  have  done  in- 
stead of  we  "  shall ' '  do.  None  of  our  army  fights  have  been 
finished,  but  are  drawn  battles,  —  worrying,  exhausting, 
but  never  completed.  Of  Rosecrans  I  have  thought  better 
and  hope  a  good  account  of  his  work,  but  the  best  some- 
times fail,  and  he  may  not  be  best. 

A  word  by  telegraph  that  the  Monitor  has  foundered 
and  over  twenty  of  her  crew,  including  some  officers,  are 
lost.  The  fate  of  this  vessel  affects  me  in  other  respects. 
She  is  a  primary  representative  of  a  class  identified  with  my 
administration  of  the  Navy.  Her  novel  construction  and 
qualities  I  adopted  and  she  was  built  amidst  obloquy 
and  ridicule.  Such  a  change  hi  the  character  of  a  fighting 
vessel  few  naval  men,  or  any  Secretary  under  then-  influ- 
ence, would  have  taken  the  responsibility  of  adopting.  But 

214  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [JAN.  3 

Admiral  Smith  and  finally  all  the  Board  which  I  appointed 
seconded  my  views,  and  were  willing,  Davis  somewhat 
reluctantly,  to  recommend  the  experiment  if  I  would 
assume  the  risk  and  responsibility.  Her  success  with  the 
Merrimac  directly  after  she  went  into  commission  re- 
lieved me  of  odium  and  anxiety,  and  men  who  were  pre- 
paring to  ridicule  were  left  to  admire. 

When  Bushnell  of  New  Haven  brought  me  the  first 
model  and  plan,  I  was  favorably  impressed.  I  was  then  in 
Hartford,  proposing  to  remove  my  family,  but  sent  him  at 
once  to  Washington,  folio  whig  myself  within  a  day  or  two. 
Understanding  that  Ericsson,  the  inventor,  was  sensitive 
in  consequence  of  supposed  slight  and  neglect  by  the  Navy 
Department  or  this  Government  some  years  ago,  I  made  it 
a  point  to  speak  to  Admiral  Smith,  Chairman  of  the  Board, 
and  specially  request  that  he  should  be  treated  tenderly, 
and  opportunity  given  him  for  full  and  deliberate  hearing. 
I  found  Admiral  Smith  well  disposed.  The  plan  was 
adopted,  and  the  test  of  her  fighting  and  resisting  power 
was  by  an  arrangement  between  Admiral  Smith  and  my- 
self, without  communication  with  any  other,  that  she 
should,  when  completed,  go  at  once  up  Elizabeth  River  to 
Norfolk  Navy  Yard,  and  destroy  the  Merrimac  while  in 
the  dry  dock,  and  the  dock  itself.  Had  she  been  completed 
within  the  contract  time,  one  hundred  days,  this  purpose 
would  have  been  accomplished,  but  there  was  delay  and 
disappointment,  and  her  prowess  was  exhibited  in  a  con- 
flict with  her  huge  antagonist  under  much  more  formidable 
circumstances.  Her  career  since  the  tune  she  first  entered 
Hampton  Roads  is  public  history,  but  her  origin,  and 
everything  in  relation  to  her,  from  the  inception,  have 
been  since  her  success  designedly  misrepresented. 

Admiral  Smith  beyond  any  other  person  is  deserving  of 
credit,  if  credit  be  due  any  one  connected  with  the  Navy 
Department  for  this  vessel.  Had  she  been  a  failure,  he, 
more  than  any  one  but  the  Secretary,  would  have  been 
blamed,  and  [he]  was  fully  aware  that  he  would  have  to 

1863]          THE   LOSS  OF  THE   MONITOR  215 

share  with  me  the  odium  and  the  responsibility.  Let  him, 
therefore,  have  the  credit  which  is  justly  his. 

January  5,  Monday.  Commander  Bankhead  arrived 
this  morning  and  brings  particulars  of  the  loss  of  the 
Monitor.  Its  weakness  was  hi  herself,  where  we  had 
apprehended,  and  not  in  an  antagonist.  This  has  been 
in  some  degree  remedied  hi  the  new  boats  we  are  now 

For  months  I  have  been  berated  and  abused  because  I 
had  not  more  vessels  of  the  Monitor  class  under  contract. 
Her  success  with  the  Merrimac  when  she  was  under  the 
trial  as  an  experiment  made  men  wild,  and  they  censured 
me  for  not  having  built  a  fleet  when  she  was  constructed. 
Now  that  she  is  lost,  the  same  persons  will  be  likely  to  assail 
me  for  expending  money  on  such  a  craft. 

There  is  a  set  of  factious  fools  who  think  it  is  wise  to  be 
censorious,  and  it  is  almost  as  amusing  as  it  is  vexatious  to 
hear  and  read  the  remarks  of  these  Solomons.  One  or  two 
of  these  officious  blockheads  make  themselves  conspicuous 
in  the  New  York  Chamber  of  Commerce,  and  none  more 
so  than  Mr.  Charles  H.  Marshall,  who  attempts  to  show 
off  his  nautical  knowledge  by  constantly  attacking  and 
slandering  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy.  Marshall  was 
formerly  a  shipmaster  and  it  was  his  often  expressed 
opinion  that  no  man  should  be  Secretary  of  the  Navy  who 
has  not  had  command  of,  and  the  sailing  of,  a  ship.  Like 
many  others  as  simple  if  not  as  egotistical,  he  would  have 
the  Secretary  who  administers  the  department  a  sailor  and 
for  the  same  reasons  he  should  be  an  engineer,  naval  con- 
structor, etc.  On  every  occasion  of  disaster,  no  matter 
from  what  cause,  this  man  Marshall  imputes  it  to  the  fact 
that  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy  has  never  commanded  a 
ship,  and  he  never  admits  that  any  credit  is  due  the  Navy 
Department  for  intelligent  and  correct  administration,  or 
the  Secretary  of  the  Navy  for  any  success  of  any  kind, 
whether  of  a  squadron  or  single  ship,  because  he  is  not  and 

216  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [JAN.  5 

never  was  a  sea-captain.  Marshall  has  had  his  prejudices 
sharpened  by  others  and  particularly  by  Moses  H.  Grin- 
nell,  who  thinks  a  shipping  merchant  would  make  a  good 
Secretary  of  the  Navy.  Both  are  disappointed  men,  and 
each  wants  to  be  at  the  head  of  the  Navy  Department. 

Thus  far  the  British  pirate  named  Alabama  sailing 
under  Rebel  colors  has  escaped  capture.  As  a  consequence 
there  are  marvelous  accounts  of  her  wonderful  speed,  and 
equally  marvelous  ones  of  the  want  of  speed  of  our 
cruisers.  Of  course  there  is  no  controverting  these  fables; 
she  will  be  a  myth,  a  "skimmer  of  the  seas,"  till  taken,  and 
our  own  vessels,  of  better  speed  and  power,  will  be  slan- 
dered by  the  Marshalls  and  Grinnells  as  destitute  of  all 
speed.  There  are  men  of  better  sense  in  the  Chamber  of 
Commerce,  but  one  of  these  has  been  an  extensive  ship- 
owner, the  other  a  shipmaster;  both  are  good  and  well- 
meaning  men,  have  been  successful  business  men,  but 
are  egotistical  and  vainly  weak.  Neither  is  competent  to 
administer  the  Navy  Department. 

The  loss  of  the  Monitor  and  the  report  of  Admiral  Lee 
and  others  of  the  draft  of  water  at  the  inlet  is  unfavor- 
able for  a  naval  attack  on  the  battery  at  Cape  Fear,  and 
the  army  object  to  move  on  Wilmington  except  in  con- 
junction with  the  Navy.  It  is  best,  therefore,  to  push  on 
to  Charleston  and  strengthen  Du  Pont.  The  War  De- 
partment promised  to  send  forward  to  South  Carolina  an 
additional  military  force  of  ten  thousand  under  General 
Hunter.  Halleck  is  heavy-headed;  wants  sagacity,  readi- 
ness, courage,  and  heart.  I  am  not  an  admirer  of  the  man. 
He  may  have  some  talent  as  a  writer  and  critic;  in  all 
military  matters  he  seems  destitute  of  resources,  skill,  or 
capacity.  He  is  more  tardy  and  irresolute  than  McClellan 
and  is  deficient  in  the  higher  qualities  which  the  latter 

We  have  further  cheering  news  from  Tennessee  of  the 
success  of  Rosecrans  at  Murfreesborough;  also  hopeful 
news  from  Vicksburg.  I  do  not  see  that  the  least  credit  is 

1863]          HALLECK  AND   McCLERNAND  217 

due  to  Halleck  in  either  of  these  cases,  unless  for  not  em- 
barrassing the  officers  in  command. 

It  was  arranged  and  directed  by  the  President  that 
General  McClernand  should  command  the  forces  which 
were  to  cooperate  with  the  Navy  at  the  opening  of  the 
navigation  of  the  Mississippi  and  the  capture  of  Vicksburg. 
But  McClernand  has  scarcely  been  heard  of.  He  is  not 
of  the  Regular  Army,  and  is  no  favorite,  I  perceive,  with 
Halleck,  though  the  President  entertains  a  good  opinion  of 
him.  Blair  alluded  two  or  three  weeks  since  to  the  fact  that 
McClernand  was  crowded  aside;  said  there  was  a  combina- 
tion to  prevent  his  having  that  command.  The  President 
started  from  his  chair  when  the  remark  was  made  and  said 
it  should  not  be  so.  Stanton  declared  it  was  not  so,  that  he 
and  Halleck  had  arranged  the  matter  that  day.  The 
President  looked  surprised  and  said  he  supposed  it  had 
been  done  long  ago. 

January  6,  Tuesday.  Got  off  dispatches  this  morning 
ordering  the  ironclads  south  to  strengthen  Du  Pont  in 
his  attack  on  Charleston,  which  he  intends  to  take, — then 
Savannah,  if  not  too  long  delayed,  when  the  ironclads  must 
go  around  to  Pensacola. 

Wilkes  is  not  doing  as  much  as  we  expected.  I  fear  he 
has  more  zeal  for  and  finds  it  more  profitable  to  capture 
blockade-runners  than  to  hunt  for  the  Alabama.  Lord 
Lyons  is  preferring  complaints  against  him  for  want  of 
courtesy,  when  he  is  really  flinging  on  him  British  insults. 
There  is  not  much  love  lost  between  him  and  John  Bull. 
If  Seward  would  square  up  firmly  we  could  make  Bull 
behave  better. 

January  8,  Thursday.  Had  a  singular  letter  to-day  from 
Chase,  requesting  that  vessels  with  custom-house  clearance 
might  be  allowed  to  pass  the  blockade.  The  arrangement 
is  in  accordance  with  an  understanding  which  he  has  with 
the  Secretary  of  War.  Replied  that  I  was  prepared  to  give 

218  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [JAN.  8 

no  such  instructions  until  the  blockade  was  raised  or 

January  9,  Friday.  On  my  way  to  Cabinet-meeting  this 
A.M.  met  Covode  and  Judge  Lewis  of  Pennsylvania.  The 
two  had  just  left  the  President  and  presented  me  with  a 
card  from  him  to  the  effect  that  Covode  had  investigated 
the  case  of  Chambers,  Navy  Agent  at  Philadelphia,  and 
that  if  I  saw  no  objection  he  should  be  removed.  Told 
them  I  was  going  to  the  President  and  the  subject  should 
have  attention.  When  I  mentioned  the  subject,  the  Pre- 
sident wished  me  to  look  into  the  case  and  see  that  all 
was  right.  He  had  not,  he  said,  examined  it,  but  passed  it 
over  to  me,  who  he  knew  would. 

The  final  accounts  of  the  result  at  Murfreesborough  are 
favorable.  Rosecrans  has  done  himself  honor  and  the 
country  service.  From  Vicksburg  the  intelligence  is  less 
satisfactory.  There  appears  to  have  been  good  fighting  but 
without  results.  A  desperate  stand  will  be  made  by  the 
Rebels  to  hold  this  place.  It  is  important  to  them  to  pre- 
vent the  free  navigation  of  the  Mississippi;  it  is  as  import- 
ant to  us  that  it  should  be  unobstructed.  They  wish  to 
have  communication  with  Texas;  we  want  to  cut  it  off. 
Had  the  army  seconded  Farragut  and  the  Navy  months 
ago,  Vicksburg  would  have  been  in  our  possession.  Halleck 
was  good  for  nothing  then,  nor  is  he  now. 

January  10,  Saturday.  The  President  sent  for  Stanton 
and  myself;  wished  us  to  consult  and  do  what  we  could  for 
the  employment  of  the  contrabands,  and  as  the  Rebels 
threatened  to  kill  all  caught  with  arms  in  their  hands,  to 
employ  them  where  they  would  not  be  liable  to  be  cap- 
tured. On  the  ships  he  thought  they  were  well  cared  for, 
and  suggested  to  Stanton  that  they  could  perform  garrison 
duty  at  Memphis,  Columbus,  and  other  places  and  let  the 
soldiers  go  on  more  active  service. 

Covode  called  at  my  house  this  evening  and  wanted  the 


President's  card.  Said  he  was  likely  to  get  into  difficulty 
and  wished  his  name  not  to  be  used  in  the  matter  of  remov- 
ing the  Navy  Agent  which  he  had  urged.  Would  himself 
see  Chambers  and  advise  him  what  to  do.  He  expects, 
he  says,  to  be  candidate  for  Governor  of  Pennsylvania. 
Covode  is  shrewd  but  illiterate,  a  match  and  more  than 
a  match  for  men  of  higher  culture,  reputation,  and  acquire- 
ments; but  I  hardly  think  his  gubernatorial  expectations 
will  be  realized,  though  they  sometimes  take  strange 
material  for  Governor  in  Pennsylvania. 

The  great  problem  which  is  being  solved  in  these  days 
seems  to  be  scarcely  realized  by  our  public,  and  really  great, 
men.  It  is  sad  to  witness  in  this  period  of  calamity,  when 
the  nation  is  struggling  for  existence,  and  the  cause  of  good 
government  and  civil  liberty  is  at  stake,  the  spirit  of  party 
overpowering  patriotism.  The  Governors  in  several  of  the 
States  have  presented  then*  messages  during  the  week. 
Tod  of  Ohio  exhibits  a  manly,  wholesome,  and  vigorous 
tone,  others  also  do  well,  but  the  Jesuitical  and  heartless 
insincerity  of  Seymour  of  New  York  is  devoid  of  true 
patriotism,  weak  in  statesmanship,  and  a  discredit  to  the 
position  he  occupies.  Unhallowed  partisan  and  personal 
aspirations  are  moving  springs  with  him.  That  such  a 
man,  at  such  a  time,  should  have  been  elected  to  such 
a  place  does  no  credit  to  popular  intelligence  or  to  public 
virtue.  When  Seward,  himself,  I  think,  rightly  disposed, 
acquiesced  in  the  debased  partisanship  of  his  friend  Weed, 
who  in  spite  wanted  Wadsworth,  the  gallant  and  patriotic 
citizen,  defeated,  he  committed  a  fatal  error. 

In  the  insurgent  States  patriotism  seems  extinguished, 
the  flag  and  country  are  hated.  There  is  great  suffering  on 
the  part  of  the  people  from  all  the  direful  calamities  which 
war  can  bring,  yet  there  is  no  evidence  of  returning  sense 
or  affection  for  that  union  which  conferred  upon  them 
happiness  and  prosperity.  Greater  calamities,  greater 
suffering,  must  be  endured. 

220  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [JAN.  10 

Some  things  have  taken  place  which  will  undoubtedly 
for  a  time  exasperate  the  Southern  mind,  for  they  will 
affect  Southern  society,  habits,  labor,  and  pursuits.  For 
a  period  emancipation  will  aggravate  existing  differences, 
and  a  full  generation  will  be  necessary  to  effect  and  com- 
plete the  change  which  has  been  commenced. 

January  12,  Monday.  Accounts  from  Vicksburg  are 
unfavorable  and  vague.  I  fear  there  has  been  mismanage- 
ment, but  we  must  wait  official  reports.  It  is  said  that 
Sherman  has  been  superseded  by  McClernand.  I  know 
not  how  this  is.  At  the  commencement  of  this  campaign, 
as  early  as  last  September,  it  was  understood  that  McCler- 
nand was  to  have  command  of  the  army  which  was  to  go 
down  the  river  and  cooperate  with  our  naval  commander, 
Porter.  The  President  had  confidence  in  him,  and  desig- 
nated the  appointment,  which  was  acceptable  to  Porter, 
who  had  a  particular  dislike  of  West-Pointers.  For  this  I 
cared  but  little,  because  it  was  confessedly  without  know- 
ledge of  the  officers  individually  and  their  merits,  a  close 
and  a  sweeping  condemnation  of  all,  —  partly,  I  think, 
because  he  did  not  know  them,  and  feared  he  should  be 
compelled  to  play  a  subordinate  part  with  them,  while 
with  a  civilian  general  he  would  have  superiority. 

For  three  months,  while  Porter  has  been  organizing  the 
Squadron,  nothing  has  been  heard  of  McClernand  until 
since  the  attack  on  Vicksburg,  and  now  it  is  merely  to 
tell  us  he  has  abandoned  the  place  and  withdrawn  his 

The  rumor  of  the  capture  of  the  Harriet  Lane  with  the 
little  garrison  at  Galveston  is  confirmed.  I  am  grieved  and 
depressed,  not  so  much  for  the  loss  of  the  Harriet  Lane  as 
from  a  conviction  that  there  has  been  want  of  good  man- 
agement. It  is  about  three  months  since  we  took  Galves- 
ton, and  yet  a  garrison  of  only  three  hundred  men  was 
there  when  the  Rebel  army  approached  the  place.  Some 
one  is  blamable  for  this  neglect. 

1863]  FITZ  JOHN   PORTER'S   CASE  221 

The  court  martial  on  Fitz  John  Porter  closed  last  Satur- 
day, and  the  rumor  is  that  he  was  at  once  unanimously 
acquitted.  Of  the  facts  I  know  nothing.  I  have  read  none 
of  the  evidence.  Shall  be  glad  if  he  is  blameless  and  it  shall 
so  appear.  My  impressions  were  that  while  he  and  some 
others  were  not  disloyal,  as  charged,  they  did  not  support 
and  sustain  the  general  in  command,  Pope,  in  a  great  crisis 
as  they  should  have  done;  that  they  performed  their  duty 
to  the  letter  of  the  law,  perhaps,  but  not  with  alacrity  and 
zeal;  that  while  they  did  not  wish  the  country  to  suffer 
a  reverse,  it  would  not  grieve  them  if  Pope  did.  In  all  this 
I  may  be  doing  certain  officers  injustice.  They  were,  how- 
ever, the  impressions  made  upon  me  at  the  time  when 
disaster  was  impending  and  our  soldiers  were  giving  their 
blood  and  their  lives  to  the  country.  I  am  no  admirer  of 
Pope,  who  has  the  reputation  among  those  who  know  him 
of  being  untruthful  and  wholly  unreliable,  a  braggart  and 
blusterer.  Wrong  may  be  to  some  extent  done  him,  but 
there  is  some  cause  for  what  is  said  of  him.  He  was  instru- 
mental in  bringing  Halleck  here,  and  Halleck  gave  him  the 
army  in  return.  Both  came  from  the  West,  and,  aided  by 
Stanton  and  Chase,  Pope  was  placed  in  command  over 
generals  who  were  his  superiors  in  age,  experience,  and 
qualifications.  This  was  as  much,  to  say  the  least,  to  hu- 
miliate McClellan  as  to  serve  the  country.  Pope  preceded 
Halleck  here,  but  it  was  the  same  influence  that  initiated 
the  two.  It  is  not  difficult  to  see  who  is  the  cause  of  their 
being  here  to  supplant  McClellan,  whose  tardy  inaction 
here  and  on  the  Peninsula  disheartened  the  nation.  Fitz 
John  Porter  was  one  of  the  generals  who  had  great  faith  in 
McClellan,  who  sympathized  with  him  hi  good  and  evil 
fortune,  but  who  was  destitute  of  faith  in  Pope,  as  were 
nearly  all  his  associates,  who  each,  like  their  commander, 
felt  wronged,  almost  insulted,  by  the  exaltation  of  an 
officer  from  the  Western  Department,  for  whom  they  had 
not  high  regard,  placed  over  them.  The  change  of  com- 
manders could  not  inspire  him  with  confidence  and  zeal, 

222  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [JAN.  12 

but  if  he  permitted  it  to  impair  his  efficiency  he  is  inex- 

January  13,  Tuesday.  Received  this  A.M.  from  Admiral 
Du  Pont  an  intercepted  mail  captured  off  Charleston. 
Reed  Saunders,  who  had  the  mail  in  charge,  threw  it 
overboard,  as  he  supposed,  but  the  master  of  the  vessel, 
once  a  volunteer  acting  master  in  our  service  whom  I  had 
dismissed  for  drunkenness,  practiced  a  deception,  and 
Saunders  threw  over  something  else  than  the  mail,  which 
the  master  secreted,  retained,  and  delivered,  and  thereby 
saved  his  bacon.  The  mail  was  not  forwarded  to  its 
destination,  as  Seward  directed  it  should  be,  but  opened. 
Numerous  and  important  dispatches  from  Mallory,  Mem- 
minger,  Benjamin,1  etc.,  etc.,  disclose  important  facts. 
Took  some  of  the  more  interesting  to  Cabinet  council. 

Was  waited  upon  by  a  large  committee  composed  mostly 
of  old  friends  and  associates  sent  here  by  Connecticut  to 
procure  the  location  of  a  navy  yard  at  New  London.  Mr. 
Speaker  Carter  was  chairman  and  chief  spokesman; 
wanted  a  navy  yard  at  New  London  for  defensive  pur- 
poses, for  the  benefit  to  be  derived  from  a  large  establish- 
ment located  in  the  State;  but  little  had  been  expended  in 
Connecticut  by  the  Federal  Government;  thought  it  a  duty 
to  look  out  for  our  own  State;  if  the  Union  should  be  bro- 
ken up,  it  would  be  well  to  have  such  an  establishment  as  I 
had  proposed  in  our  own  limits,  etc.  Assured  the  commit- 
tee if  Congress  decided  to  establish  a  navy  yard  at  New 
London  I  should  not  oppose  but  would  heartily  cooperate 
to  make  it  what  was  wanted  and  what  it  should  be.  That 
the  small  yard  at  Philadelphia  was  totally  insufficient,  and 
if,  in  removing  it,  Congress  should  decide  to  go  to  New 
London  instead  of  remaining  on  the  Delaware,  I  should 
submit  to  the  decision,  but  I  could  not,  in  honesty,  sincer- 
ity, and  as  an  American  citizen  acting  for  all,  recommend 

1  Heads  respectively  of  the  Navy,  Treasury,  and  State  Departments  in 
the  Confederate  Government. 


it.  That  I  had  never  supposed  that  the  true  interest  of  the 
country  would  be  promoted  by  such  a  transfer;  that,  much 
as  I  loved  my  native  State,  I  could  not  forget  I  was  acting 
for  the  whole  country  and  for  no  one  locality.  That  League 
Island  on  the  Delaware  possessed  some  peculiar  advan- 
tages that  belonged  to  no  other  navy  yard  nor  to  New 
London;  that  it  had  been  tendered,  a  free  gift,  by  the  city 
of  Philadelphia  as  a  substitute  for  the  present  contracted 
wharfage  in  the  city;  that  I  had  conscientiously  advised 
its  acceptance,  and  I  could  not  do  otherwise  than  to  still 
act  in  accordance  with  my  convictions  of  what  I  deemed 
best  for  the  whole  country  by  continuing  to  recommend 
its  acceptance,  whatever  might  be  determined  in  regard 
to  a  navy  yard  at  New  London,  which  was  an  altogether 
different  matter. 

January  15,  Thursday.  Have  been  interested  for  the  last 
two  or  three  days  in  reading,  when  I  had  time,  letters  that 
were  taken  from  the  intercepted  mail.  Most  of  them  are 
from  intelligent  writers  in  the  best  circles  at  Richmond.  In 
these  communications,  freely  written  in  friendly  confidence, 
there  [crops]  out  a  latent  feeling  of  hope  for  peace  and 
restoration  of  once  happier  days.  There  is  distress  and 
deprivation;  the  spirit  of  hate  engendered  by  strife  is  there, 
but  no  happiness  nor  inward  satisfaction  over  the  desola- 
tion which  active  hostilities  have  caused.  Strange  that  so 
many  intelligent  beings  should  be  so  madly  influenced. 

A  number  of  Senatorial  elections  have  recently  taken 
place.  Cameron  has  not  succeeded  even  by  corruption,  and 
it  is  well  he  did  not.  I  felt  relieved  when  I  heard  he  was 
defeated,  though  I  did  not  rejoice  in  the  success  of  his 
opponent,  whose  sympathies  are  reputed  to  be  with  the 

January  16,  Friday.  Little  of  interest  in  the  Cabinet. 
Chase,  who  has  been  absent  a  week,  was  present;  Stanton 
did  not  attend.  No  navy  or  army  matters  discussed.  Chase 

224  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [JAN.  ie 

says  the  New-Yorkers  are  generally  coming  into  his  finan- 
cial views,  that  all  in  Philadelphia  approve  them;  thinks 
they  should  be  made  a  party  test.  No  one  responded  to 
this,  —  an  indication  that  they  were  not  prepared  to  have 
him  set  up  a  standard  of  financial,  political,  or  party  ortho- 
doxy for  them. 

A  flurry  in  the  Senate  to-day  over  a  letter  from  General 
Meigs,  who  had  been  coarsely  assailed  a  day  or  two  since 
by  Wilkinson  of  Minnesota.  The  Senatorial  dignity  was 
ruffled  by  the  manly  rebuke  of  the  soldier.  There  is  an 
impotent  and  ridiculous  attempt  at  ^elf-sufficient  and  pre- 
suming airs,  an  exhibition  of  lame  and  insolent  arrogance, 
on  the  part  of  many  Senators  towards  men  who  are,  to  say 
the  least,  their  equals  in  every  good  quality.  Not  long 
since  J.  P.  Hale  undertook  to  vent  his  personal  spite  in  the 
Senate  on  Admiral  Smith,  who  regards  the  public  interest 
more  than  the  wordy,  personal,  and  selfish  schemes  of  the 
New  Hampshire  Senator.  The  dignity  of  the  Senator  was 
bruised  by  the  old  sailor's  blunt  honesty,  who  demanded 
a  committee  with  power  and  an  investigation  to  whitewash 
the  Senator  or  blackwash  the  Admiral. 

January  19,  Monday.  Sent  a  letter  to  the  two  naval 
committees  on  the  subject  of  filling  vacancies  in  the  Naval 
School.  Members  of  Congress  are  disposed  to  evade  all 
responsibility,  and  yet  to  carp  at  and  criticize  those  of  us 
who  under  imperious  public  necessity  are  compelled  to  act. 
The  school  should  be  full  now  if  ever.  I  propose  to  fill  it. 
The  Members  individually  with  few  exceptions  urge  it.  I 
ask  them  to  give  me  at  least  the  expression  of  their  official, 
Senatorial  opinion,  but  they  shrink. 

Received  a  telegraphic  dispatch  from  Admiral  Porter 
via  Cairo  of  the  capture  of  Dunnington  and  force  at 
Arkansas  Post.  It  is  dated  the  llth  of  January,  —  a  long 
and  protracted  transit. 

Baldwin  of  the  Vanderbilt  came  up  to-day  from  Hamp- 
ton Roads,  where  he  arrived  yesterday  from  an  unsuccess- 

1863]     FITZ  JOHN  PORTER'S  CONVICTION      225 

ful  cruise  for  the  Alabama,  his  vessel  having  been  detained 
by  Wilkes,  which  defeated  the  Department's  plan. 

There  are  rumors  of  the  movement  of  the  army  at  Fal- 
mouth.  Incipient  steps  have  doubtless  been  taken,  but  the 
storm  has  retarded  operations. 

January  21,  Wednesday.  The  furious  storm  of  last  night 
and  to-day  fills  us  with  apprehensions  for  the  two  iron- 
clads, Nahant  and  Weehawken.  It  is  hoped  they  put  in  to 
the  Breakwater. 

Wrote  Seward,  who  makes  inquiry  respecting  the  con- 
struction of  vessels  for  the  Japanese,  advising  that  the 
Government  should  have  nothing  to  do  with  them,  that 
Pruyn,  the  commissioner,  ought  not  to  commit  or  ha  any 
way  implicate  the  Government. 

January  22,  Thursday.  There  is  a  rumor  that  Fitz  John 
Porter,  whose  trial  of  over  forty  days  has  interested  the 
public,  is  found  guilty  and  has  been  cashiered.  A  different 
result  was  reported  at  the  close  of  the  trial  a  fortnight  since. 
It  was  then  said  he  was  unanimously  acquitted.  I  did  not 
give  implicit  credit  to  that  rumor,  though  I  read  none  of 
the  testimony;  but  my  impressions  and  observation  and  all 
that  I  heard  at  the  War  Department  in  relation  to  Porter 
and  other  generals  in  the  day  and  time  of  their  occurrence 
for  which  he  was  arraigned  were  such  I  could  not  believe 
him  wholly  guiltless.  The  finding  and  punishment  are 
severe,  but  I  apprehend  not  entirely  undeserved.  I  do  not, 
however,  impute  to  him  disloyalty  or  treachery,  but  he  was 
one  of  a  mortified  clique  or  combination  who  were  vexed 
and  dissatisfied,  not  without  cause  perhaps,  that  an  inferior 
officer  for  whom  they  had  not  high  regard  should  have  been 
brought  from  a  distant  department  and  placed  over  them, 
their  plans  and  operations  broken  up,  and  the  commander 
whom  they  respected  and  to  whom  they  were  attached 
superseded  and  virtually  disgraced.  But  if  the  country 
was  made  to  suffer  by  this  mortified  partisan  combination, 

226  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [JAN.  22 

it  was  a  crime  which  should  not  go  unrebuked  or  unpun- 
ished. Porter  may  not  have  been  the  chief  or  only  sinner, 
though  the  victim  in  this  combination. 

It  was  not  a  wise  or  judicious  movement  to  place  Pope 
at  the  head  of  the  army  last  summer.  If  I  am  not  mistaken 
those  who  participated  in  it  now  think  so.  An  intrigue 
against  McClellan  brought  him  and  Halleck  here.  Perhaps 
under  no  circumstances  was  Pope  equal  to  the  command 
given  him,  but  I  thought  then  and  still  believe  he  was  not 
faithfully  and  fairly  sustained  by  Porter  and  his  associ- 
ates. McClellan  and  most  of  his  generals  were  vexed  and 
irritated.  They  had  some  cause  for  dissatisfaction,  but 
not  to  the  injury  of  the  country.  Fitz  John  Porter,  the 
intimate  of  McClellan,  entered  with  all  the  ardor  of  a  parti- 
san and  a  clansman  into  the  feelings  and  wrongs  of  his 
commander.  He  and  the  set  to  which  he  belonged  did  not, 
I  thought  at  the  time,  wish  Pope  to  acquire  great  glory; 
their  zeal  for  victory  was  weak  when  he  commanded,  and 
the  battle  was  lost.  To  some  extent  the  results  at  the  sec- 
ond Bull  Run  fight  are  attributable  to  the  bad  conduct  of 
the  generals.  It  has  been  evident  the  soldiers  of  the  Army 
of  the  Potomac  were  not  enthusiastic  for  Pope,  —  that 
they  did  not  like  him.  This  is  true,  but  who  chilled  them? 
Who  encouraged  their  dislike? 

The  Weehawken  has  arrived  at  Hampton  Roads,  having 
rode  out  the  gale  without  making  a  port.  No  man  but  John 
Rodgers  would  have  pushed  on  his  vessel  in  that  terrific 
storm.  The  Nahant,  a  better  vessel,  sought  the  Break- 
water, as  did  some  of  our  best  wooden  steamers. 

General  Burnside  was  to  have  made  a  forward  move- 
ment, but  the  storm  prevented.  There  are  rumors  that  the 
army  is  much  demoralized,  that  the  soldiers  do  not  give 
their  confidence  to  Burnside,  doubt  his  military  capacity, 
and  that  some  of  the  generals  are  cool.  There  is,  I  think, 
some  truth  and  some  exaggeration  in  all  these  reports. 

January  23,  Friday.   As  I  anticipated,  continued  and 

1863]       A  CALL  FROM  F.  A.  CONKLING         227 

increasing  abuses  and  much  illicit  traffic  are  going  on  under 
the  army  permits  issued  by  General  Dix  to  pass  the  block- 
ade. It  will  be  difficult  to  stop  the  abuse,  now  that  it  has 

I  have  sent  to  Congress  a  communication  with  a  view  to 
getting  an  expression  of  opinion  on  the  subject  of  League 
Island  for  naval  purposes. 

By  request  of  Senator  Foot  of  the  Naval  Committee, 
prepared  a  bill  in  relation  to  midshipmen  and  sent  it  with 
a  letter. 

January  24,  Saturday.  Had  a  telegram  at  midnight  from 
Admiral  Porter  of  captures  on  White  River. 

Senator  Foot  yesterday  resigned  his  seat  on  the  Naval 
Committee.  Some  disagreement  with  Hale,  the  chairman, 
who  plays  the  part  of  a  harlequin  as  well  as  a  demagogue,  — 
is,  I  am  told,  a  constant  marplot  and  very  contentious  in 
the  Committee,  does  nothing  to  assist  but  much  to  embar- 
rass and  counteract  the  Department.  Grimes  also  asked  to 
be  excused  for  the  same  reason  as  Foot;  does  not  conceal 
his  dislike  and  detestation  of  Hale.  The  Senate  did  right 
in  refusing  to  excuse  him. 

F.  A.  Conkling, 1  who,  the  President  says,  is  "a  mighty 
onhandy  man,"  called  to  give  me  a  lecture  and  instructions 
relative  to  the  appointment  of  midshipmen.  Said  Congress 
had  the  right  to  nominate  and  it  was  the  duty  of  the  Secre- 
tary to  appoint.  He  could  not  tell  me  where  Congress  got 
that  right,  or  the  right  to  locate  them  in  districts.  Was 
compelled  to  admit  that  Congress  could  not  dictate  or  nom- 
inate who  should  be  judges  of  the  Supreme  Court,  or  say 
from  what  circuit  or  State  the  President  should  select  them, 
but  after  a  little  controversy  he  acknowledged  the  cases 
were  analogous.  Forgetting  his  first  starting-point,  he 
wanted  to  know  by  what  authority  the  Secretary  of  the 
Navy  appointed  midshipmen.  I  referred  him  to  the  Con- 
stitution and  the  laws,  which  I  pointed  out.  Told  him  the 
1  A  Representative  from  New  York,  brother  of  Roscoe  Conkling. 


President  by  and  with  the  consent  and  approval  of  the 
Senate  could  make  appointments,  but  Congress  could  by 
law  confer  or  vest  inferior  appointments  in  the  courts 
of  law,  heads  of  Departments,  or  the  President  alone;  that 
Congress  had,  by  law,  vested  the  inferior  appointment  of 
midshipmen  in  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy,  and  I  had,  under 
that  law,  made  appointments  and  should  continue  to  do 
so.  After  tumbling  over  the  statutes  for  sometime,  he  found 
himself  unable  to  controvert  my  position  or  to  answer  me, 
and  left,  apparently  with  a  "flea  in  his  ear."  No  man  ever 
came  upon  me  more  dogmatically,  or  left  more  humble. 

In  answer  to  Senator  Fessenden,  who  is  pushed  forward 
by  Preble  to  urge  his  restoration,  I  replied  that  in  my  opin- 
ion the  tune  had  not  yet  arrived,  but,  having  made  known 
my  views,  I  should  leave  the  subject  with  the  Senate, 
claiming  no  infallibility  for  myself.  F.  expresses  a  willing- 
ness to  take  upon  himself  any  responsibility,  but  did  not 
wish  to  act  in  opposition  to  me,  who,  he  said,  had  some,  but 
not  many,  unscrupulous  assailants  who  were  anxious  to 
get  him  in  collision  with  me.  He  complimented  my  ad- 
ministration of  the  Department,  which  he  had  honestly 
sustained  because  he  honestly  approved  it,  and  had  been 
annoyed  with  the  mischievous  manoeuvres  of  the  Chairman 
of  the  Naval  Committee,  which,  however,  were  well  under- 
stood hi  the  Senate  and  did  me  no  harm.  Preble's  note 
seeking  restoration  was  surly  and  crusty.  I  suggested  that 
on  his  own  account  he  had  better  form  a  different  one. 
Fessenden  said  he  would  consult  any  one  I  might  name. 
Told  him  Davis  or  Smith  were  pretty  good  in  such  matters. 
F.  laughed  and  said  Smith  wrote  the  note. 

A  California  committee  was  on  Tuesday  before  the  Cab- 
inet relative  to  the  gauge  of  the  Pacific  Railroad.  They 
gave  each  their  views,  —  every  one,  I  believe,  in  favor  of 
the  five-feet  gauge.  When  they  left,  the  President  proposed 
a  vote  without  discussion,  —  not  that  it  should  be  conclu- 
sive but  as  an  expression  of  the  unbiased  opinion  of  each.  I 
was,  for  the  present  at  least,  for  four  eight  and  one  half, 

1863]        HOOKER  SUCCEEDS  BURNSIDE         229 

chiefly  for  the  reason  that  a  change  could  be  made  from  the 
wide  to  the  narrow  at  less  expense  than  the  reverse;  the 
aggregate  cost  will  be  millions  less;  that  usage,  custom, 
practical  experience,  knowledge  proved  the  superiority  of 
that  gauge  if  they  had  proved  anything,  etc.,  etc.  I  believe 
the  majority  were  for  that  gauge. 

The  Chronicle  contains  the  argument  of  Judge- Advocate 
Holt  in  Fitz  John  Porter's  case.  It  seems  to  have  been 
made  after  the  finding  of  the  Court  instead  of  before,  and 
is  sent  out  with  it  as  if  in  defense  of  the  decision.  The  pro- 
ceeding is  singular  and  will  be  likely  to  cause  censure.  There 
is  much  of  partisanship  on  both  sides  of  Porter's  case.  I 
have  abstained  from  being  mixed  up  in  it,  and  have  not  had 
the  time,  nor  am  I  called  upon,  to  read  the  voluminous 
proceedings  and  comments.  If  the  conviction  is  correct, 
the  punishment  is  hardly  adequate  to,  or  commensurate 
with,  the  offense.  I  have  thought  Porter  not  alone  in  fault. 
More  than  one  appeared  to  me  culpable  for  the  disasters 
of  that  period. 

There  is  a  change  of  commander  of  the  Army  of  the 
Potomac.  Burnside  relinquishes  to  Hooker.  I  hope  the 
change  may  be  beneficial,  but  have  apprehensions.  The 
President  asked  me  about  the  time  of  the  Second  Battle  of 
Bull  Run,  when  Pope  was  to  leave  and  McClellan  was  out 
of  favor:  "Who  can  take  command  of  this  army?  Who  is 
there  among  all  these  generals?  "  The  address  to  me  was  un- 
expected, and  without  much  consideration  I  named  Hooker. 
The  President  looked  approvingly,  but  said,  "I  think  as 
much  as  you  or  any  other  man  of  Hooker,  but  —  I  fear  he 
gets  excited,"  looking  around  as  he  spoke.  Blair,  who  was 
present,  said  he  is  too  great  a  friend  of  John  Barleycorn.  I 
have  mingled  but  little  in  the  social  or  convivial  gatherings 
of  the  military  men,  have  attended  fewer  of  the  parades 
than  any  member  of  the  Cabinet,  and  have  known  less  of 
their  habits.  What  I  had  seen  and  observed  of  Hooker  had 
impressed  me  favorably,  but  our  interviews  had  been 
chiefly  business-wise  and  in  the  matter  of  duty,  but  there 

230  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [JAN.  24 

was  a  promptness,  frankness,  and  intelligence  about  him 
that  compared  favorably  with  some  others.  I  remarked, 
"If  his  habits  are  bad,  if  he  ever  permits  himself  to  get 
intoxicated,  he  ought  not  to  be  trusted  with  such  a  com- 
mand," and  withdrew  my  nomination.  From  what  I  have 
since  heard,  I  fear  his  habits  are  not  such  as  to  commend 
him,  that  at  least  he  indulges  in  the  free  use  of  whiskey, 
gets  excited,  and  is  fond  of  play.  This  is  the  result  of  my 
inquiries,  and,  with  this  reputation,  I  am  surprised  at  his 
selection,  though,  aside  from  the  infirmities  alluded  to,  he 
doubtless  has  good  points  as  an  officer. 

January  28,  Wednesday.  Word  comes  that  the  Oreto 
has  escaped  from  Mobile  and  destroyed  some  vessels.  Our 
information  is  vague  and  indefinite,  but  I  doubt  not  it  is 
hi  the  main  true. 

Get  as  yet  no  official  report  of  the  disaster  at  Galveston. 
Farragut  has  prompt,  energetic,  excellent  qualities,  but  no 
fondness  for  written  details  or  self -laudation ;  does  but  one 
thing  at  a  time,  but  does  that  strong  and  well;  is  better 
fitted  to  lead  an  expedition  through  danger  and  difficulty 
than  to  command  an  extensive  blockade;  is  a  good  officer 
in  a  great  emergency,  will  more  willingly  take  great  risks 
in  order  to  obtain  great  results  than  any  officer  in  high 
position  in  either  Navy  or  Army,  and,  unlike  most  of  them, 
prefers  that  others  should  tell  the  story  of  his  well-doing 
rather  than  relate  it  himself. 

Thurlow  Weed  retires  from  the  Evening  Journal.  Is  this 
an  actual  or  pretended  retirement?  I  always  distrust  him. 
He  is  strong  and  cunning;  has  a  vigorous  but  not  an  ingen- 
uous mind.  Being  a  lifelong  partisan,  he  cannot  abandon 
party  even  for  the  country's  welfare,  though  he  may  strive 
to  have  them  assimilate.  It  grieved  him  that  so  many  of 
his  old  party  opponents  should  have  been  invited  to  the 
Cabinet  and  identified  with  the  Administration.  The  Pre- 
sident quietly  laughs  at  Weed's  intrigues  to  exclude  Chase 
and  myself.  This  was  in  the  interest  of  Seward,  his  alter  ego. 

1863]     IDENTITY  OF  WEED  AND  SEWARD     231 

I  remember  that  Seward  on  one  occasion  remarked  in  Cab- 
inet, "Weed  is  Seward,  and  Seward  is  Weed;  each  approves 
what  the  other  says  and  does."  It  was  not  a  pleasant 
remark  to  some  of  us,  and  Chase  said  he  did  not  recognize 
the  identity;  while  he  would  yield  a  point  as  a  matter  of 
favor  to  Mr.  Seward,  he  would  not  to  Weed.  His  ostensible 
reason  for  abandoning  the  field  of  active  politics  at  this 
time  and  leaving  the  Journal  is  because  he  cannot  act 
with  his  friends  and  support  the  Administration.  There 
is  intrigue,  insincerity,  and  scheming  in  all  this.  I  have 
no  confidence  in  him,  and  he  doubtless  knows  it.  The 
organization  of  the  New  York  Legislature  has  been  finally 
accomplished.  If  Weed  does  not  go  for  Seward  for  the 
Senate, — which  is  at  the  bottom  of  this  movement, — he 
will  prop  Morgan.  King,  their  best  man,  is  to  be  sacrificed. 
I  do  not  think  Weed  is  moving  for  the  Senatorship  for 
himself,  yet  it  is  so  charged.  He  has  professedly  left  his 
old  friends,  but  it  is  to  carry  as  many  as  possible  with  him 
into  a  new  combination,  where  he  and  Seward  will  have 
Dix,  whom  they  have  captured  and  whom  they  are  using 
while  D.  supposes  they  are  earnest  for  him. 

January  30,  Friday.  But  little  at  the  Cabinet.  Chase 
is  quite  dejected,  and  manifested  some  rather  suppressed 
irritation  towards  Blair  and  Seward  as  he  sat  beside  me. 
Neither  of  them  saw  it;  I  was  glad  they  did  not. 

Blair  says  Fitz  John  Porter  is  disliked  by  the  army  with 
the  exception  of  McClellan,  but  is  his  special  confidant. 
The  President  seemed  to  know  this,  but  the  disaffection 
as  stated  by  Blair  was  more  general  than  he  supposed. 

February  3,  Tuesday.  The  I.  P.  Smith,1  a  purchased 
steamer  of  eleven  guns,  is  reported  captured  in  Stono 
River.  We  have  information  also  that  the  blockaders  have 
captured  the  Princess  Royal  with  a  valuable  cargo,  that 
was  attempting  to  get  into  Charleston. 

1  This  was  the  gunboat  Isaac  Smith,  captured  January  30.  Her  name 
was  incorrectly  reported. 

232  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [FEB.  3 

The  naval  contractors  are  becoming  clamorous  for  ad- 
vanced prices  in  consequence  of  the  depreciation  of  money. 
I  have  been  expecting  this.  Cheapening  money  will  be  dear 
to  the  Government.  Have  warned  Chase  of  it.  It  is  only 
the  beginning  of  evil. 

The  question  of  making  an  example  by  shooting  a  de- 
serter was  before  the  Cabinet.  A  case,  considered  a  strong 
one,  of  a  young  man  named  Bud  of  Albany  was  presented. 
It  did  not  strike  me  as  so  aggravated  a  case  as  some  others, 
but  the  necessity  of  an  example  to  check  a  rapidly  increas- 
ing evil  was  unanimously  assented  to.  The  propriety  of 
inflicting  high  penalty  on  some  more  conspicuous  offender 
than  a  poor  private  soldier  was  suggested. 

February  4,  Wednesday.  Governor  E.  D.  Morgan  was 
yesterday  elected  Senator  in  place  of  Preston  King.  If 
the  latter  was  not  to  be  returned,  Morgan  was  probably  the 
best  of  the  competitors.  He  will  make  a  useful  Senator  if 
he  can  persistently  carry  out  his  honest  convictions,  but 
I  know  of  no  one  who  can,  just  at  this  tune,  make  good 
the  place  of  King.  He  has  been  cheated  and  deceived.  The 
country  sustains  a  loss  in  his  retirement.  He  is  honest, 
faithful,  unselfish,  and  earnestly  patriotic. 

We  have  the  whole  world  agog  with  an  account  of  an 
onset  on  our  fleet  before  Charleston.  The  Mercedita  is 
reported  to  have  been  surprised  and  sunk,  and  other  vessels 
damaged.  But  the  great  hullabaloo  is  over  a  report  that  the 
whole  blockading  fleet  ran  away, — the  foreign  consuls  at 
Charleston  went  out  and  could  see  none  of  the  vessels, — and 
the  blockade  is  by  the  Rebels  declared  raised.  Seward  called 
on  me  in  great  trepidation  with  these  tidings.  Told  him 
most  of  the  stuff  was  unworthy  of  a  moment's  considera- 
tion. Not  unlikely  the  Mercedita  may  have  been  surprised 
and  sunk,  as  she  is  of  light  draft  and  was  probably  close  in. 
If  there  had  been  other  vessels  captured  or  sunk,  we  should 
have  had  their  names.  It  looked  to  me  as  if  the  budget  was 
made  up  for  the  European  market  by  the  foreign  consuls, 


1863]         SEWARD  AND   THE  BLOCKADE         233 

who  are  in  fact  Rebel  agents,  and  I  asked  why  their  ex- 
equaturs were  not  annulled. 

The  New  York  papers  have  sensation  headings  over  the 
Charleston  news,  and  the  Tribune  has  a  ridiculous  article 
about  blockade,  more  wild,  if  possible,  than  Seward. 

February  5,  Thursday.  Seward  sent  me  this  morning  a 
scary  dispatch  which  he  proposed  to  give  each  of  the  foreign 
ministers,  in  relation  to  the  blockade  at  Galveston,  which 
he,  unwisely,  improperly,  and  without  knowledge  of  the 
facts,  admits  has  been  raised,  but  which  he  informs  them 
will  be  again  immediately  enforced.  I  was  exceedingly 
annoyed  that  he  should  propose  to  issue  such  a  document 
under  any  circumstances,  and  especially  without  consulta- 
tion. It  is  one  of  those  unfortunate  assumptions,  pregnant 
with  error,  in  which  he  sometimes  indulges.  I  toned  and 
softened  his  paper  down  in  several  places,  but  told  the 
clerk  to  give  Mr.  Seward  my  compliments  and  say  to  him 
I  totally  objected  to  his  sending  out  such  a  paper. 

February  6,  Friday.  Nothing  of  special  importance  at  the 
Cabinet.  Seward  was  absent,  and  I  therefore  called  on 
him  respecting  his  circular  dispatch  concerning  the  block- 
ade at  Galveston.  His  chief  clerk,  Mr.  Hunter,  was  coy  and 
shy.  Neither  he  nor  Mr.  Seward  were  certain  it  had  been 
sent.  Some  dispatches  had  not  been  sent.  Seward  said  he 
had  made  all  the  alterations,  but  the  clerk  had  not  done  his 
errand  properly,  did  not  tell  him  I  objected,  etc.,  etc.  The 
Department  seemed  in  confusion.  Hunter  watched  Seward 
closely  and  could  recollect  only  what  Seward  recollected. 
When  I  touched  on  the  principles  involved,  I  found  Seward 
inexcusably  ignorant  of  the  subject  of  blockade.  He  ad- 
mitted he  had  not  looked  into  the  books,  had  not  studied 
the  subject,  had  relied  on  Hunter.  Hunter  said  he  had  very 
little  knowledge  and  no  practical  experience  on  these  mat- 
ters except  what  took  place  during  the  Mexican  blockade. 
Made  Seward  send  for  Wheaton;  read  to  him  a  few  pass- 

234  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [FEB.  6 

ages.  He  seemed  perplexed,  but  thought  his  circular  dis- 
patch as  modified  could  do  little  harm.  I  am  apprehensive 
that  he  has,  in  his  ostentatious,  self-assuming  way,  com- 
mitted himself  in  conversation,  and  knows  not  how  to  get 
out  of  the  difficulty.  He  says  Fox  told  him  the  blockade 
was  raised  at  Galveston.  It  is  one  of  those  cases  where  the 
Secretary  of  State  has  written  a  hasty  letter  without  proper 
inquiry  or  knowledge  of  facts,  and  my  fears  are  that  he  has 
made  unwarranted  admissions.  After  firing  off  his  gun,  he 
learns  his  mistake,  —  has  "gone  off  half-cocked." 

February  7,  Saturday.  Two  or  three  Members  of  the 
House  have  had  an  opportunity  to  spend  their  wrath  on 
me  in  relation  to  appointment  of  midshipmen.  Calvert  is 
quite  angry  on  two  or  three  matters  and  takes  this  oppor- 
tunity to  vent  his  spite.  Washburne  of  Illinois,  who  has  the 
reputation  of  being  the  "meanest  man  in  the  House,"  is 
sore  under  my  reply  to  his  inquiry  concerning  the  "vessel 
Varuna";  others  but  little  better  than  Washburne  were 

February  9,  Monday.  A  special  messenger  from  Admiral 
Du  Pont  with  dispatches  came  to  my  house  early  this  morn- 
ing before  I  was  awake,  and  would  deliver  them  into  no 
hand  but  my  own.  I  received  them  at  the  door  of  my  cham- 
ber. They  relate  to  the  late  flurry  at  Charleston.  The 
Mercedita  was  neither  captured  nor  sunk,  nor  was  any  ves- 
sel of  the  Squadron.  The  Mercedita  and  Keystone  State 
were  injured  in  their  steam-chests,  and  went  to  Port  Royal 
for  repairs.  All  the  noise  about  raising  the  blockade  was 
mere  trash  of  the  Rebels  South  and  their  sympathizers 
North.  Dr.  Bacon,  the  bearer  of  the  dispatches,  came  to 
Philadelphia  in  the  prize  Princess  Royal,  captured  running 
the  blockade.  Abuse  will  cease  for  a  day,  perhaps,  under 
this  intelligence.  Am  surprised  at  the  ignorance  which 
prevails  in  regard  to  the  principles  of  blockade,  which  the 
late  trouble  has  exposed. 


February  10,  Tuesday.  Presented  Colonel  Hawley's 
name  to  the  President  for  Brigadier-General  with  expres- 
sions of  my  regard.  Was  kindly  received  but  no  assurance 
given.  Informed  the  President  I  should  put  Preble's  case 
in  his  hands  to  be  disposed  of. 

The  nomination  of  Mark  Howard  for  Collector  of  the 
Hartford  District  has  been  suspended  in  the  Senate.  How- 
ard is  a  very  faithful,  competent,  and  excellent  man  for  the 
office,  but  he  and  Senator  Dixon,  neighbors  and  formerly 
intimate  friends,  have  latterly  had  some  differences.  Dixon 
takes  advantage  of  his  position  as  Senator  to  stab  Howard 
in  secret  session,  where  H.  can  have  no  opportunity  for  self- 
defense.  Senator  Sumner,  whom  I  met  this  evening,  says 
Dixon  came  to  him  and  asked,  if  a  personal  enemy,  who 
abused,  slandered,  and  defied  him  were  before  the  Senate, 
would  he  vote  for  him.  Sumner  replied,  No.  Senator  Doo- 
little  admits  he  was  in  like  manner  approached;  says  it  was 
embarrassing,  for  there  is  an  implied  understanding  —  a 
courtesy  among  Senators  —  that  they  will  yield  to  the 
personal  appeals  of  a  Senator  in  appointments  to  office  in 
his  own  town.  I  asked  if  it  was  possible  that  the  Senate 
prostituted  itself  to  gratify  private  animosities,  —  made 
itself  a  party  to  the  personal  quarrels  of  one  of  its  members 
and  gave  him  the  means  to  wreak  his  vengeance  on  a 
worthy  person  without  cause  or  justification?  Doolittle 
attempted  no  defense;  evidently  did  not  like  the  attitude 
in  which  he  was  placed. 

Thurlow  Weed  is  in  town.  He  has  been  sent  for,  but  my 
informant  knows  not  for  what  purpose.  It  is,  I  learn,  to 
consult  in  regard  to  a  scheme  of  Seward  to  influence  the 
New  Hampshire  and  Connecticut  elections. 

Some  days  since,  Seward  handed  me  a  dispatch  as  I  en- 
tered the  President's  office  on  Cabinet  day,  from  Mr.  Day- 
ton at  Paris,  stating  the  French  Government  was  pressing 
friendly  mediation.  I  handed  it  back  after  reading,  with 
the  remark  that  it  was  wholly  inadmissible.  Seward  made 
no  reply,  but  handed  the  dispatch  to  others  to  read  as  they 

236  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [FEB.  10 

came  in.  There  was,  I  think,  a  response  similar  to  mine 
from  each.  When  I  heard  that  Seward's  factotum,  Weed, 
had  been  called  here  I  thought  at  once  of  Dayton's  dispatch 
and  schemes  of  adjustment.  Nous  verrons. 

[In  the  lower  House  of  Congress]  after  a  violent  attack 
byCalvert,  Washburne,  and  a  few  others  [on  the  subject  of 
appointment  of  midshipmen],  I  was  sustained  by  a  vote 
of  two  to  one,  to  the  great  chagrin  of  the  clique,  who, 
I  am  told,  did  not  conceal  their  vexation. 

February  14,  Saturday.  The  New  York  Tribune  of  yester- 
day has  an  allusion  to  correspondence  between  Seward  and 
myself  relative  to  the  British- African  Slave  Treaty,  which 
indicates  a  purpose  to  get  us  by  the  ears. 

February  16,  Monday.  General  Foster  was  here  yester- 
day, Sunday.  Has  let  out  the  proposed  attack  on  Charles- 
ton. This  indicates  what  I  have  lately  feared, —  that 
Du  Pont  shrinks,  dreads,  the  conflict  he  has  sought,  yet  is 
unwilling  that  any  other  should  undertake  it,  is  afraid 
the  reputation  of  Du  Pont  will  suffer.  This  jeopardizes  the 
whole,  —  makes  a  botched  thing  of  it.  I  am  disappointed, 
but  not  wholly  surprised.  A  mandate  he  will  obey,  but  I 
cannot  well  give  it,  for  there  are  preliminaries  and  contin- 
gencies which  would  influence  his  movements  and  of  which 
he  must  judge.  The  President  desires  Fox  to  go  down  to 
Charleston  with  General  Foster,  and  came  with  Fox  to  see 
me.  Told  him  it  was  a  time  when  the  active  force  of  the 
Department  was  most  wanted,  it  being  near  the  close  of 
the  session  of  Congress,  when  every  variety  of  call  was 
made  and  delays  to  answer  are  inadmissible,  and  some 
important  bills  were  to  be  acted  upon  and  engineered 
through;  nevertheless,  if  it  was  indispensable,  he  must  go, 
but  the  very  fact  that  Fox  was  sent  on  such  an  errand  as 
proposed  would  touch  Du  Pont's  pride,  which  is  great,  and 
do  perhaps  more  harm  than  good.  The  President  compre- 
hended my  views,  and  it  was  thought  best  that  Fox  should 


not  go,  but  Foster  was  informed  of  our  ideas,  —  that  the 
Navy  could  move  independent  of  the  army,  and  pass  Sum- 
ter,  not  stop  to  batter  it.  Once  in  the  rear  of  the  fort  and 
having  the  town  under  the  guns  of  the  ironclads,  the  mili- 
tary in  the  forts  and  on  James  Island  would  be  compelled 
to  come  to  terms.  All  is  clear  and  well  enough  but  Du  Pont 
should  have  such  a  force  as  to  inspire  confidence  in  himself 
and  men  in  order  to  insure  a  favorable  result.  Will  and  de- 
termination are  necessary  to  success.  While  it  is  right  that 
he  should  be  circumspect  and  vigilant,  I  deplore  the  signs 
of  misgiving  and  doubt  which  have  recently  come  over  him, 
—  his  shirking  policy,  getting  in  with  the  army,  making 
approaches,  etc.  It  is  not  what  we  have  talked  of,  not  what 
we  expected  of  him;  is  not  like  the  firm  and  impetuous  but 
sagacious  and  resolute  Farragut. 

February  17,  Tuesday.  The  President  read  to  the  Cabi- 
net a  correspondence  between  himself  and  Fernando  Wood. 
The  latter  wrote  the  President  on  the  8th  of  December  last 
that  he  had  good  reason  to  believe  the  South  desired  a 
restoration  of  the  Union,  etc.  The  President  replied  on  the 
12th  of  December  that  he  had  no  confidence  in  the  impres- 
sion, but  that  he  would  receive  kindly  any  proposition. 
Wood's  letter  was  confidential;  the  President  made  his  so. 
All  was  well  enough,  perhaps,  in  form  and  manner  if  such  a 
correspondence  was  to  take  place.  Wood  is  a  Representa- 
tive and  his  letter  was  brought  to  the  President  by  Mayor 
Opdyke.1  Mayor  Opdyke  and  ex-Mayor  Wood  are  on 
opposite  extremes  of  parties,  —  so  opposite  that  each  is,  if 
not  antagonistic,  not  very  friendly  inclined  to  the  President. 
Wood  now  telegraphs  the  President  that  the  time  has 
arrived  when  the  correspondence  should  be  published.  It 
is  a  piece  of  political  machinery  intended  for  certain  party 

Chase  says  that  Howard  and  Trumbull  of  the  Senate 
were  dissatisfied  with  their  vote  in  favor  of  his  bank  bill, 

1  George  Opdyke,  Mayor  of  New  York. 

238  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [FEB.  17 

which  they  had  given  under  the  impression  it  was  an  Ad- 
ministration measure,  but  they  had  since  understood  that 
Usher  and  myself  were  opposed  to  it.  I  told  him  that  my 
general  views  were  better  known  to  him  than  them,  that 
I  had  no  concealment  on  the  subject;  I  had,  however,  no 
recollection  of  ever  exchanging  a  word  with  either  of  those 
Senators  concerning  his  measures;  that  I  had  given  his 
financial  questions  little  or  no  attention,  had  never  read 
his  bill,  had  but  a  general  conception  of  his  scheme;  that,  so 
far  as  I  was  informed,  it  was  not  in  conformity  with  my  old 
notions,  as  he  well  knew,  for  I  had  freely  communicated 
with  him  early,  though  I  had  not  been  consulted  recently 
and  matters  had  taken  such  a  shape  I  was  glad  I  had  not 
been,  and  that  the  whole  subject  had  been  committed 
to  him  and  Congress.  I  had  neither  time  nor  inclination  to 
study  new  theories,  was  wedded  to  old  doctrines  and  settled 
principles.  Usher  said  he  had  electioneered  for  the  measure 
with  sundry  Congressmen,  whom  he  named.  I  told  him 
I  had  not  with  any  one  and  did  not  intend  to. 

February  18,  Wednesday.  Have  a  long  dispatch  from 
Admiral  Porter  relative  to  operations  on  the  Mississippi, 
a  cut  at  the  Delta  between  Helena  and  the  Yazoo  on  the 
east,  and  at  Lake  Providence  into  Tensas  on  the  west. 

February  19,  Thursday.  A  special  Cabinet-meeting.  The 
President  desired  a  consultation  as  to  the  expediency  of  an 
extra  session  of  the  Senate.  Chase  favored.  Seward  op- 
posed. No  very  decided  opinion  expressed  by  the  others. 
I  was  disinclined  to  it. 

The  President  has  been  invited  to  preside  at  a  meeting 
for  religious  Christian  purposes  on  Sunday  evening.  Chase 
favored  it.  All  the  others  opposed  it  but  Usher,  who  had 
a  lingering,  hesitating,  half-favorable  inclination  to  favor 
it.  Has  been  probably  talked  with  and  committed  to  some 
extent;  so  with  Chase. 

The  President  on  Tuesday  expressed  a  wish  that  Captain 

1863]      DAHLGREN  AND  THE  PRESIDENT      239 

Dahlgren  should  be  made  an  admiral,  and  I  presented 
to-day  both  his  and  Davis's  names.1 

I  wrote  Senator  Dixon  a  note,  remonstrating  against  his 
misuse  of  power  by  opposing  in  secret  session  the  appoint- 
ment and  confirmation  of  Howard  as  Collector;  that  it 
was  not  only  wrong,  officially,  for  he  was  not  clothed  with 
authority  to  revenge  private  grievances,  but  it  would  close 
the  door  to  any  reconciliation,  and  make  lifelong  enmities 
between  those  who  were  neighbors  and  should  be  friends; 
that  he  admitted,  and  every  one  knew,  Howard  was  a  good 
and  correct  officer.  All,  it  seems,  was  unavailing,  for  I  hear 
the  Senate  has  failed  to  confirm  the  nomination.  An  in- 
excusable and  unjustifiable  act  on  the  part  of  the  Senate, 
a  wrong  to  the  country,  a  gross  wrong  and  outrage  on  an 
American  citizen  of  character  and  worth  who  is  discharging 
his  duty  with  fidelity,  the  peer  of  the  Senators  who  are 
guilty  of  this  prostitution  of  honor  and  trust.  This  act  and 
this  practice  of  the  Senate  are  as  repugnant  to  good  govern- 
ment and  as  degrading  as  anything  in  the  corrupt  days  of 
Roman  history,  or  the  rotten  aristocracy  of  modern  Europe. 

February  22,  Sunday.  A  severe  snowstorm.  Did  not 
venture  abroad.  Had  a  call  from  Dahlgren,  who  is  very 
grateful  that  he  is  named  for  admiral.  Told  him  to  thank 
the  President,  who  had  made  it  a  specialty;  that  I  did 
not  advise  it.  He  called  with  reference  to  a  written  promise 
the  President  had  given  one  Dillon  for  $150,000  provided 
a  newly  invented  gunpowder  should  prove  effective.  I 
warned  Dahlgren  that  these  irregular  proceedings  would 
involve  himself  and  others  in  difficulty;  that  the  President 
had  no  authority  for  it ;  that  there  was  no  appropriation  in 
our  Department  from  which  this  sum  could  be  paid;  that 
he  ought  certainly  to  know,  and  the  President  should 
understand,  that  we  could  not  divert  funds  from  their  legit- 
imate appropriation.  I  cautioned  him,  as  I  have  had  occa- 

1  Charles  Henry  Davis,  who  had  defeated  the  Confederate  fleet  off  Fort 
Pillow,  and  captured  Memphis. 

240  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [FEB.  22 

sion  to  do  repeatedly,  against  encouraging  the  President 
in  these  well-intentioned  but  irregular  proceedings.  He  as- 
sures me  he  does  restrain  the  President  as  far  as  respect  will 
permit,  but  his  " restraints"  are  impotent,  valueless.  He  is 
no  check  on  the  President,  who  has  a  propensity  to  engage 
in  matters  of  this  kind,  and  is  liable  to  be  constantly  im- 
posed upon  by  sharpers  and  adventurers.  Finding  the 
heads  of  Departments  opposed  to  these  schemes,  the  Pre- 
sident goes  often  behind  them,  as  in  this  instance;  and 
subordinates,  flattered  by  his  notice,  encourage  him.  In 
this  instance,  Dahlgren  says  it  is  the  President's  act,  that 
he  is  responsible,  that  there  is  his  written  promise,  that  it 
is  not  my  act  nor  his  (D.'s). 

Something  was  said  to  me  some  days  since  in  regard  to 
the  great  secret  of  this  man  Dillon,  but  I  gave  it  no  atten- 
tion, did  not  like  the  manner,  etc.  So  it  was,  I  apprehend, 
with  the  War  Department;  and  then  Dillon  went  to  the 
President  with  his  secret,  which  I  apprehend  is  no  secret. 

February  23,  Monday.  General  Halleck  informs  me  there 
is  a  rumor  via  Richmond  that  the  steamer  Queen  of  the 
West  has  been  captured.  He  doubts  its  truth.  I  fear  it 
may  be  so. 

February  24,  Tuesday.  At  the  Cabinet-meeting  the  Pre- 
sident expressed  uneasiness  at  the  rumor  which  he  had  just 
heard  that  the  Queen  of  the  West  was  captured.  Told  him 
what  I  heard  yesterday  from  General  Halleck.  Stanton 
said  he  wholly  discredited  the  story,  but  went  and  got  the 
dispatches.  On  reading  them,  my  apprehensions  were  in- 
creased. The  President  called  on  me  later  in  the  day,  and  we 
both  came  to  the  conclusion  that  the  boat  was  lost  to  us. 

February  25,  Wednesday.  Had  a  brief  call  from  General 
McClellan  this  P.M.  He  looks  in  good  health,  but  is  evi- 
dently uncomfortable  in  mind.  Our  conversation  was  gen- 
eral, —  of  the  little  progress  made,  the  censoriousness  of 

1863        SEWARD  AND   GENERAL  SGOTT        241 

the  public,  of  the  dissatisfaction  towards  both  of  us,  etc., 
etc.  The  letter  of  General  Scott,  of  the  4th  of  October, 
1861,  complaining  of  his  disrespect  and  wanting  obedience, 
is  just  brought  out. 

I  well  remember  an  interview  between  these  two  officers 
about  the  period  that  letter  was  written,  the  President, 
myself,  and  two  or  three  others  being  present.  It  was  in 
General  Scott's  rooms  opposite  the  War  Office.  In  the 
course  of  conversation,  which  related  to  military  opera- 
tions, a  question  arose  as  to  the  number  of  troops  there 
were  in  and  about  Washington.  Cameron  could  not 
answer  the  question;  McClellan  did  not;  General  Scott 
said  no  reports  were  made  to  him;  the  President  was 
disturbed.  At  this  moment  Seward  stated  the  several 
commands, — how  many  regiments  had  reported  in  a  few 
days,  and  the  aggregate  at  the  tune  of  the  whole  force. 
The  statement  was  made  from  a  small  paper,  and,  appeal- 
ing to  McClellan,  that  officer  replied  that  the  statement 
approximated  the  truth.  General  Scott's  countenance 
showed  great  displeasure.  "This,"  said  the  veteran  war- 
rior, "is  a  remarkable  state  of  things.  I  am  in  command 
of  the  armies  of  the  United  States,  but  have  been  wholly 
unable  to  get  any  reports,  any  statement  of  the  actual 
forces,  but  here  is  the  Secretary  of  State,  a  civilian,  for 
whom  I  have  great  respect  but  who  is  not  a  military  man 
nor  conversant  with  military  affairs,  though  his  abilities 
are  great,  but  this  civilian  is  possessed  of  facts  which  are 
withheld  from  me.  Military  reports  are  made,  not  to  these 
Headquarters  but  to  the  State  Department.  Am  I,  Mr. 
President,  to  apply  to  the  Secretary  of  State  for  the 
necessary  military  information  to  discharge  my  duties?" 

Mr.  Seward  explained  that  he  had  got  his  information 
by  vigilance  and  attention,  keeping  account  of  the  daily 
arrival  of  regiments,  etc.,  etc.  There  was  a  grim  smile  on 
the  old  soldier.  "  And  you,  without  report,  probably  ascer- 
tained where  each  regiment  was  ordered.  Your  labors  and 
industry,  Mr.  Secretary  of  State,  I  know  are  very  arduous, 

242  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [FEB.  25 

but  I  did  not  before  know  the  whole  of  them.  If  you  in  that 
way  can  get  accurate  information,  the  Rebels  can  also, 
though  I  cannot." 

Cameron  here  broke  in,  half  hi  earnest  and  half -ironical, 
and  said  we  all  knew  that  Seward  was  meddlesome,  inter- 
fering in  all  the  Departments  with  what  was  none  of  his 
business.  He  thought  we  had  better  go  to  our  duties.  It 
was  a  pleasant  way  of  breaking  up  an  unpleasant  interview, 
and  we  rose  to  leave.  McClellan  was  near  the  open  door, 
and  General  Scott  addressed  him  by  name.  "You,"  said 
the  aged  hero,  "were  called  here  by  my  advice.  The  times 
require  vigilance  and  activity.  I  am  not  active  and  never 
shall  be  again.  When  I  proposed  that  you  should  come 
here  to  aid,  not  supersede,  me,  you  had  my  friendship  and 
confidence.  You  still  have  my  confidence." 

I  had,  hi  the  early  stages  of  the  War,  disapproved  of 
the  policy  of  General  Scott,  which  was  purely  defensive, 
—  non-intercourse  with  the  insurgents,  shut  them  out  from 
the  world  by  blockade  and  military  frontier  lines,  but  not 
to  invade  then-  territory.  The  anaconda  policy  was,  I  then 
thought  and  still  think,  unwise  for  the  country.  The  policy 
of  General  McClellan  has  not  been  essentially  different,  but 
he  was  called  here  with  the  assent  it  not  by  the  recom- 
mendation of  General  Scott.  It  was  evident  from'what  tran- 
spired at  the  interview  here  mentioned  that  Mr.  Seward, 
who  had  been  in  close  intimacy  with  the  veteran  com- 
mander at  first,  had  transferred  his  intimacy  to  the  junior 
general,  and  the  former  felt  it,  — saw  that  he  was  becoming 
neglected,  —  and  his  pride  was  wounded. 

That  Seward  kept  himself  well  informed  in  the  way  he 
stated,  I  think  was  true,  and  he  likely  had  his  information 
confirmed  by  McClellan,  with  whom  he  almost  daily 
compared  notes  and  of  whom  he  made  inquiries.  But 
McClellan  is  by  nature  reticent, — in  many  respects  a  good 
quality.  Seward  has  great  industry  and  an  inquiring  mind, 
and  loves  to  possess  himself  of  everything  that  transpires. 
Has  an  unfortunate  inclination  to  run  to  subordinates  for 


information.  Has  in  Meigs  a  willing  assistant,  and  others 
who  think  it  a  compliment  to  be  consulted  by  the  Secretary 
of  State,  and  are  ready  to  impart  to  him  all  they  know  of 
the  doings  and  intentions  of  their  superiors.  He  has  by  his 
practice  encouraged  the  President  to  do  likewise  and  get  at 
facts  indiscreetly;  but  the  President  does  this  because  he 
feels  a  delicacy  in  intruding,  especially  in  business  hours, 
on  the  heads  of  Departments.  S.  has  no  such  delicacy,  but 
a  craving  desire  to  be  familiar  with  the  transactions  of  each 


Closing  Hours  of  Congress  —  A  Call  from  Senator  Dixon  —  Proposed  Issue 
of  Letters  of  Marque —  Delay  in  the  Attack  on  Charleston  —  Impending 
War  with  England  —  Conversations  with  Sumner  about  the  Letters  of 
Marque  —  Conversation  with  the  President  on  the  Subject  of  Letters 
of  Marque  and  the  Attitude  of  England  —  Talk  with  Seward  on  the  Re- 
lation of  the  Navy  Department  to  the  Letters  of  Marque  —  The  First 
Application  for  Letters  of  Marque  —  The  Expected  Attack  on  Charleston 
—  News  of  Repulse  at  Charleston  —  The  Peterhoff's  Mails  —  Com- 
mander Rhind  and  the  Ironclads  at  Charleston  —  The  Elletts  and  the 
Ram  Fleet  —  Du  Font's  Failure  at^Charleston  —  The  {President  takes 
a  Hand  in  the  Peterhoff  Contention  —  Blockade-Runners  on  the  Rio 
Grande  —  Du  Font's  Vanity  and  Weakness  —  Sumner's  Conversation 
with  Lord  Lyons  on  the  Peterhoff  Matter. 

March  5,  Thursday.  Went  on  the  evening  of  the  3d  inst. 
to  the  Capitol.  Spent  most  of  the  tune  until  eleven  o'clock 
in  the  President's  room.  It  is  my  first  visit  to  the  Capitol 
since  the  session  commenced.  Was  for  half  an  hour  on  the 
floor  of  the  House.  Thirty-four  years  ago  spent  the  night 
of  the  3d  of  March  on  the  floor  of  the  Representatives' 
Chamber.  It  was  in  the  old  Representatives'  Hall.  Andrew 
Stevenson  was  Speaker.  I  first  saw  Henry  Clay  that  night. 
He  came  from  the  President's  room  to  the  House  about 
ten.  It  was  to  him  the  scene  of  old  triumphs,  and  friends 
crowded  around  him. 

I  subsequently  went  into  the  Senate  Chamber,  a  much 
larger  but  less  pleasant  room  than  the  old  one,  which  I  first 
visited  in  the  last  days  of  the  second  Adams.  If  the  present 
room  is  larger,  the  Senators  seemed  smaller.  My  first  im- 
pressions were  doubtless  more  reverential  than  those  of 
later  times. 

The  deportment  of  the  Members  in  both  houses  was  calm 
and  in  favorable  contrast  with  what  I  have  ever  seen  of  the 
closing  hours  of  any  session,  and  I  have  witnessed  many. 
There  was  nothing  boisterous,  and  but  little  that  was  fac- 
tious. It  was  nearly  midnight  when  we  left.  On  the  morn- 

1863]        CLOSING  HOURS  OF  CONGRESS         245 

ing  of  the  4th  I  was  at  the  Capitol,  from  ten  till  twelve.  All 
passed  off  harmoniously. 

The  recent  dispatches  of  Consul  Morse  at  London,  and 
information  from  other  sources,  render  it  necessary  meas- 
ures should  be  taken  to  prevent  the  Rebels  from  getting 
a  considerable  naval  force  afloat. 

March  6,  Friday.  Appointments  considered  yesterday 
and  to-day.  Generally  conceded  that  Field  of  California 
was  the  man  for  the  Supreme  Court.  The  Court  of  Claims 
seems  a  peace  court.  The  Court  for  the  District  is  more 
important,  and  unfortunately  the  hearts  and  sympathies 
of  the  present  judges  are  with  the  Rebels. 

March  7,  Saturday  night.  The  week  has  been  one  of 
steady,  incessant  employment.  I  feel  I  have  been  over- 
tasked and  am  much  exhausted.  Must  have  rest. 

Two  rather  important  bills  were  got,  I  may  say  smug- 
gled, through  Congress,  affecting  the  Navy  Department, 
which  I  never  saw.  One  of  them,  relating  to  an  Advisory 
Board,  was  brought  to  the  President  for  approval  on  the 
4th  of  March,  which  he  handed  to  me.  On  a  hasty  perusal 
I  requested  him  not  to  sign  it  until  it  could  have  a  more 
thorough  examination.  We  sent  for  Grimes  to  make  in- 
quiry concerning  it.  He  said  the  bill  had  never  been  dis- 
cussed; he  did  not  approve  of  it;  that  he  had  expected  it 
would  be  killed  in  the  House.  The  President  passed  it 
to  me  for  criticism  and  farther  examination,  and  return  to 
him  with  my  views.  The  other  bill  relates  to  matters  of 
prize,  and  must  have  been  got  through  surreptitiously.  It 
is  crude  and  objectionable  in  several  respects. 

Sedgwick,  Chairman  of  the  Naval  Committee  in  the 
House,  has  been  active  in  getting  through  a  bill  for 
the  codification  of  the  naval  laws,  and  expects  to  per- 
form the  service  of  codification.  All  in  the  Department 
and  the  officers  generally  desire  him  to  perform  the  service, 
but  there  are  objections  in  my  mind  to  his  selection,  which 


I  should  urge,  were  it  not  that  the  President  has  another 
candidate,  a  gentleman  who  has  no  knowledge  of  naval 
affairs  or  naval  or  admiralty  law,  but  who,  qualified  or  not, 
wants  a  place. 

March  9,  Monday.  Had  a  call  from  Senator  Dixon.  Is 
depressed  and  unhappy.  Regrets  that  he  opposed  the  con- 
firmation of  Howard.  Says  if  the  subject  was  to  be  gone 
over  again  his  course  would  be  different.  I  did  not  attempt 
to  soften  or  excuse  his  conduct,  but  told  him  I  was  sorry 
he  did  not  listen  to  my  suggestions.  He  proposed  several 
names  for  the  place.  I  had  no  other  candidate  than  my  old 
friend  James  G.  Bolles,  and  he,  though  naming  two  or  three 
others,  fell  in  with  it. 

March  10,  Tuesday.  I  saw  last  evening  a  communication 
from  the  State  Department  inclosing  several  pages  of  reg- 
ulations for  letters  of  marque.  The  subject  was  to-day  be- 
fore the  Cabinet,  and  there  is  a  stronger  disposition  for  the 
policy  than  I  expected.  I  told  the  President  I  had  given 
the  proposed  regulations  but  a  cursory  examination.  The 
subject  was  therefore  postponed  to  our  Friday  meeting, 
with  an  understanding  that  I  should  in  the  mean  tune 
examine  them  and  report  if  they  were  objectionable.  On 
looking  over  the  sections,  I  find  they  are  a  transcript  of  the 
laws  of  1812  and  1813,  which  the  Secretary  of  State  has 
embodied  in  a  series  of  regulations  which  he  proposes  to 
issue.  The  old  laws  of  half  a  century  ago  have  expired.  It 
is  not  pretended  they  have  vitality.  But  the  Secretary 
of  State  legislates  by  regulations.  I  am  not  favorably 
impressed  with  the  law  or  the  regulations,  nor  with  the  idea 
of  sending  out  privateers  against  a  couple  of  piratical  cruis- 
ers, even  if  there  are  private  parties  fools  enough  to  go  on 
that  hunt,  which  he  says  there  are,  but  I  doubt.  The  law 
undertakes  to  delegate  legislative  power  to  the  President, 
which  is  in  itself  wrong.  But  the  subject  is,  I  fear,  a  fore- 
gone conclusion.  Both  Seward  and  Chase  favor  it,  and  the 

1863]      LETTERS  OF  MARQUE  PROPOSED       247 

commercial  community  is  greatly  exasperated  against  the 
robbers.  If  the  subject  goes  forward,  S.  will  turn  the  whole 
labor  and  responsibility  over  to  the  Navy  Department. 

March  12,  Thursday.  Had  a  letter  from  Chief  Engineer 
Stimers  last  night.  Says  the  attack  on  Charleston  will  be 
delayed ;  suggests  it  will  be  made  the  first  week  in  April.  It 
made  me  nervous  and  restless  through  the  night;  got  but 
little  sleep.  The  delay,  hesitation,  uncertainty  in  the  Army 
of  the  Potomac  over  again.  Du  Pont  is  getting  as  prudent 
as  McClellan;  is  very  careful;  all  dash,  energy,  and  force 
are  softened  under  the  great  responsibility.  He  has  a  re- 
putation to  preserve  instead  of  one  to  make. 

Stimers  arrived  this  morning  and  read  to  me  the  minutes 
of  a  council  held  on  board  the  Wabash.  The  army  officers 
were  present,  and  it  is  plain  they  were  a  drawback  on  naval 
operations.  Talk  of  beginning  the  attack  on  Charleston 
by  an  assault  on  the  sand-batteries  at  the  mouth  of  the 
harbor  instead  of  running  past  them.  Of  obstructions  and 
torpedos  little  is  known,  but  great  apprehensions  are  enter- 
tained. Stimers  is  sent  up  to  get  more  ironclads  and  an- 
other raft.  The  President  came  in,  and  the  whole  subject 
was  recounted.  His  views  and  mine  are  alike.  To  delay  for 
the  objects  stated  till  April  will  be  to  postpone  to  May. 
Expressed  ourselves  very  decidedly,  and  told  Stimers  to 
hurry  back. 

Talked  over  the  subject  of  Rebel  privateers  building  in 
England.  Said  to  the  President  and  Mr.  Seward  I  thought 
England  should  be  frankly  informed  that  our  countrymen 
would  not  be  restrained  from  active  operations  if  Great 
Britain  persisted  in  making  war  on  our  commerce  under 
Confederate  colors. 

March  17.  Returned  last  evening  from  strictly  confi- 
dential visit  to  New  York. 

Some  discussion  in  Cabinet-meeting  to-day  on  letters 
of  marque.  Seward  and  Chase  are  both  strong  advocates  of 


the  measure.  Am  surprised  that  Chase  should  favor  it,  for 
he  must  be  sensible  of  the  consequences.  He  has,  I  think, 
committed  himself  somewhat  hastily  to  some  of  the  in- 
dignant but  inconsiderate  men  in  the  shipping  interest  who 
are  sufferers.  Seward  has  no  knowledge  on  the  subject,  nor 
any  conception  of  the  effect  of  letting  loose  these  depre- 
dators under  government  sanction.  There  is  such  a  general 
feeling  against  the  English,  who  are  conniving  with  and 
aiding  the  Rebels,  that  privateering  is  becoming  popular 
with  the  Administration  and  country.  Statesmen  who 
should  check  and  restrain  the  excited,  erring  popular  cur- 
rent are  carried  along  with  it.  I  suggested  some  doubts  of 
the  expediency  of  the  proposed  proceedings,  and  the  prin- 
ciples involved.  In  the  first  place  I  queried  whether  Con- 
gress could  depute  legislative  power  to  the  Executive,  as 
was  assumed.  I  asked  Seward  if  he  had  any  money  to  pay 
the  promised  bounties,  and  if  he  was  of  opinion  there  could 
be  fines  and  criminal  punishment  inflicted  by  Executive 
regulations  merely.  Seward  said  he  had  no  money;  knew 
not  whether  there  was  any  appropriation  from  which  funds 
could  be  taken;  if  not,  he  must  pledge  the  Government. 
This  I  opposed,  and  no  one  sustained  Seward  or  expressed 
an  opinion  on  the  subject.  As  regarded  penal  inflictions, 
fines,  criminal  punishment  by  regulation  he  had  no  doubt 
whatever,  should  not  hesitate  in  the  least.  I  could  admit 
no  such  power  on  the  part  of  the  Executive.  My  doubts 
and  suggestions,  I  perceived,  set  others  thinking.  Chase 
became  silent. 

These  notions  hi  regard  to  privateers  and  letters  of 
marque,  though  crude,  erroneous,  and  fraught  with  evil, 
have  been  maturing  for  some  time,  and  I  do  not  mistake 
in  placing  much  of  the  mischief  to  the  State  Department, 
which  would  be  irresponsible  for  Navy  transgressions.  The 
Times  of  New  York  and  the  Chronicle  of  this  city  and  pa- 
pers of  that  particular  phase  of  partyism,  which  never  [act] 
without  prompting  from  a  certain  quarter,  have  been  writ- 
ing up  the  matter  and  getting  the  public  mind  excited.  The 


Chronicle  pronounces  the  privateers  to  be  a  volunteer  navy 
like  volunteer  forces  on  land.  The  Times  mixes  up  letters 
of  marque  with  the  Navy  Department,  which  it  blames  for 
delaying  to  issue  the  necessary  authority,  innocently  un- 
aware that  it  is  a  subject  pertaining  to  that  Department  of 
the  Government  whose  head  it  would  never  intentionally 

Conflicting  accounts  concerning  Farragut's  command  on 
the  lower  Mississippi.  The  Rebel  accounts  state  he  passed 
Port  Hudson  with  his  vessel,  the  others  being  driven  back, 
with  the  exception  of  the  steamer  Mississippi,  which  all  say 
was  grounded  and  blown  up.  Our  account  represents  that 
all  the  fleet  passed  up  except  the  Mississippi. 

The  accounts  from  Porter,  above  Vicksburg,  are  not 
satisfactory.  He  is  fertile  in  expedients,  some  of  which  are 
costly  without  adequate  results.  His  dispatches  are  full  of 
verbosity  of  promises,  and  the  mail  which  brings  them  also 
brings  ludicrous  letters  and  caricatures  to  Heap,  a  clerk 
who  is  his  brother-in-law,  filled  with  laughable  and  bur- 
lesque accounts  of  amusing  and  ridiculous  proceedings. 
These  may  be  excusable  as  a  means  of  amusement  to  keep 
up  his  spirits  and  those  of  his  men,  but  I  should  be  glad 
to  witness,  or  hear  of  something  more  substantial  and  of 
energies  employed  in  what  is  really  useful.  Porter  has 
capabilities  and  I  am  expecting  much  of  him,  but  he  is  by 
no  means  an  Admiral  Foote. 

The  progress  of  the  squadron  and  troops  at  Charleston 
is  slow  and  unsatisfactory.  I  apprehend  the  defenses  are 
being  strengthened  much  faster  than  the  assailants.  Du 
Pont  has  attacked  Fort  McAllister  and  satisfied  himself 
that  the  turret  vessels  are  strong  and  capable  of  great 
endurance,  but  at  the  same  tune  he  doubtless  made  the 
Rebels  aware  of  these  facts. 

March  31.  For  a  fortnight  I  have  been  ill  and  really 
unfit  for  duty,  yet  have  been  absent  from  the  Department 
but  a  single  day,  the  only  day  I  have  lost  in  Washington 

250          DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES    [MARCH  31 

since  March  4, 1861.  But  for  the  illness  of  Mr.  Faxon,  Chief 
Clerk,  I  should  have  abstained  a  day  or  two  from  labor. 
Fatigued  and  exhausted,  I  have  not  felt  able  to  jot  down 
current  events  from  day  to  day. 

With  some  effort,  though  with  indifferent  health,  I  have 
drawn  up  a  communication  to  Mr.  Seward  on  the  subject 
of  letters  of  marque.  But  after  the  council  to-day  he  read  a 
dispatch  from  Mr.  Adams,  communicating  two  letters  from 
Earl  Russell,  which  are  insolent,  contemptuous,  and  mean 
aggression  if  not  war.  It  is  pretty  evident  that  a  devastat- 
ing and  villainous  war  is  to  be  waged  on  our  commerce  by 
English  capital  and  English  men  under  the  Rebel  flag  with 
the  connivance  of  the  English  Government,  which  will,  and 
is  intended  to,  sweep  our  commerce  from  the  ocean.  Only 
by  a  decided,  firm,  and  resolute  tone  can  the  country  be 
rescued,  and  I  am  by  no  means  certain  that  will  be  sufficient. 
We  are  in  no  condition  for  a  foreign  war.  Torn  by  dissen- 
sions, an  exhausting  civil  war  on  our  hands,  we  have  a 
gloomy  prospect,  but  a  righteous  cause  that  will  ultimately 
succeed.  God  alone  knows  through  what  trials,  darkness, 
and  suffering  we  are  to  pass.  There  is  a  disinclination  to 
look  these  troubles  which  threaten  us  boldly  in  the  face.  I 
felt  oppressed,  as  did  the  others.  A  long  vista  of  direful  ca- 
lamities opens  before  us.  Mr.  Seward  is  earnest  to  get  out 
privateers  to  catch  the  Alabama  and  the  blockade-runners. 
The  President  thinks  they  should  try  that  policy.  Chase 
has  lately  favored  it.  I  have  no  faith  hi  it  as  against  the 
Rebels,  who  have  no  commerce  to  be  injured,  but  if  we 
are  to  have  a  conflict  with  England,  letters  of  marque 
and  every  means  in  our  power  must  be  put  in  requisition 
against  that  faithless  nation.  I  have,  therefore,  doubts 
about  sending  the  letter  which  I  have  prepared. 

Earl  Russell  gives  us  to  understand  the  English  Govern- 
ment do  not  intend  to  interpose  to  prevent  the  Rebels  from 
building,  buying,  and  sending  out  from  England  cruisers, 
semi-pirates,  to  prey  upon  our  commerce.  In  plain  lan- 
guage, English  capital  is  to  be  employed  hi  destroying  our 

1863]     IMPENDING  WAR  WITH  ENGLAND     251 

shipping  interests.  If  we  are  silent  and  submissive,  they 
will  succeed,  and  we  shall  waken  to  our  condition  when  our 
vessels  and  merchant  seamen  are  gone. 

The  condition  of  affairs  opens  avast  field.  Should  a  com- 
mercial war  commence,  it  will  affect  the  whole  world.  The 
police  of  the  seas  will  be  broken  up,  and  the  peaceful  inter- 
course of  nations  destroyed.  Those  governments  and  peo- 
ples that  have  encouraged  and  are  fostering  our  dissensions 
will  themselves  reap  the  bitter  fruits  of  their  malicious 
intrigues.  In  this  great  conflict,  thus  wickedly  begun,  there 
will  be  likely  to  ensue  an  uprising  of  the  nations  that  will 
shatter  existing  governments  and  overthrow  the  aristo- 
cracies and  dynasties  not  only  of  England  but  of  Europe. 

I  close  my  book  and  this  month  of  March  with  sad  and 
painful  forebodings.  The  conduct  and  attitude  of  Great 
Britain,  if  persisted  in,  foreshadow  years  of  desolation,  of 
dissolution,  of  suffering  and  blood. 

Should  April  open,  as  we  hope,  with  success  at  Charles- 
ton and  Vicksburg,  there  will  be  a  change  in  the  deport- 
ment and  conduct  of  England.  Her  arrogance  and  subtle 
aggression  will  be  checked  by  our  successes,  and  by  that 
alone.  She  has  no  magnanimity,  no  sense  of  honor  or  of 
right.  She  is  cowardly,  treacherous,  and  mean,  and  hates 
and  fears  our  strength.  In  that  alone  is  our  security. 

April  2.  Had  a  call  last  evening  and  again  to-day  from 
Senator  Sumner.  Our  conversation  was  chiefly  on  our  for- 
eign relations,  the  unfortunate  condition  of  public  affairs, 
the  inexcusable  attitude  of  England,  and  the  question  of 
letters  of  marque.  On  the  latter  subject  he  is  much  dissatis- 
fied with  Mr.  Seward.  He  informs  me  that  he  was  opposed 
to  the  passage  of  the  law  at  the  late  session,  and  is,  I  am 
glad  to  see,  quite  sensitive  on  the  sub  j  ect.  I  thought  the  law 
well  enough  as  a  precautionary  measure,  a  warning  to  the 
mischievous  spirits  abroad,  an  authorization  to  the  Pre- 
sident in  case  of  necessity,  and  especially  as  a  weapon  to 
coerce  England  into  propriety.  The  power  granted  was  ex- 


traordinary  and  to  be  used  with  discretion,  but  Mr.  Seward, 
having  obtained  the  authority,  is  disposed  to  exercise  it. 
The  merchants  having  been  loud  and  profuse  in  their  com- 
plaints and  promises,  he  has  taken  it  for  granted  that  they 
would  at  once  avail  themselves  of  the  law,  and  make  a  rush 
in  a  random  search  for  a  couple  of  lean  and  hungry  wolves 
that  are  abroad,  which  would  be  difficult  to  catch  and  value- 
less when  caught.  I  have  questioned  whether  he  could  be- 
guile merchants  into  such  an  investment,  and  he  begins  to 
feel  uneasy  that  none  have  come  forward  as  he  expected. 

In  a  letter  which  I  commenced  some  days  since  and  fin- 
ished Saturday  night,  I  put  upon  paper  some  of  the  sugges- 
tions, views,  and  doubts  I  have  from  time  to  time  expressed 
in  our  discussions.  This  letter  I  gave  out  to  be  copied,  and 
it  was'on  my  table  for  signature  when  I  returned  yesterday 
from  Cabinet  council.  The  English  news  was  such  that  I 
laid  it  aside  unsigned,  and  it  was  lying  on  the  table  when 
Sunnier  came  in.  He  stated,  among  other  things,  he  had 
been  to  the  State  Department  and  that  Seward  had  given 
him  the  substance  of  the  last  dispatches.  He  asked  if  I  had 
seen  them.  I  answered  that  I  had,  and  was  so  disgusted 
with  them  that  I  had  laid  by  a  letter  which  I  had  prepared 
in  opposition  to  the  current  feeling  which  prevailed  on  the 
subject  of  letters  of  marque.  He  wished  to  read  it,  and 
after  doing  so  complimented  the  letter  with  emphasis, 
and  begged  I  would  sign  and  send  it. 

[The  letter  referred  to  above  was  signed  and  sent  with 
date  of  March  31.  It  read  as  follows:] 

31  Mar.,  1863. 


When  discussing  the  regulations  concerning  "Letters  of 
Marque,"  &c  a  few  days  since,  I  made  certain  suggestions,  and 
you  invited  me  to  communicate  any  views  I  might  entertain, 
in  writing. 

I  have  felt  some  delicacy,  I  may  say  disinclination,  to  take  any 
active  part  in  this  matter,  because  I  have  from  the  beginning  of 
our  difficulties  discouraged  the  policy  of  privateering  in  such  a 

1863]  THE  LETTERS  OF  MARQUE  253 

war  as  this  we  are  now  waging.  The  rebels  have  no  commercial 
marine  to  entice  and  stimulate  private  enterprise  and  capital  in 
such  undertakings,  provided  the  policy  were  desirable.  We, 
however,  have  a  commerce  that  invites  the  cupidity,  zeal  and 
spirit  of  adventure,  which,  once  commenced,  will  be  difficult  to 
regulate  or  suppress.  A  few  privateers  let  loose  among  our 
shipping,  like  wolves  among  sheep,  would  make  sad  havoc,  as  the 
Alabama  and  the  Florida  bear  witness. 

It  is  proposed  to  encourage  private  enterprize  to  embark  in 
undertaking  to  capture  the  two  wolves  or  privateers  that  are 
abroad  devastating  the  seas,  and  it  is  said,  in  addition  to  the 
wolves  they  may  be  authorized  to  catch  blockade  runners.  The 
inducement,  I  apprehend,  will  not  meet  a  favorable  response. 
There  may  be  vessels  fitted  out  to  capture  unarmed  prizes,  but  not 
of  sufficient  force  to  meet  and  overcome  the  Alabama;  if  not,  the 
great  end  and  purpose  of  the  scheme  will  fail  of  accomplishment. 

To  clothe  private  armed  vessels  with  governmental  power  and 
authority,  including  the  belligerent  right  of  search,  will  be  likely 
to  beget  trouble,  and  the  tendency  must  unavoidably  be  to  abuse. 
Clothed  with  these  powers  reckless  men  will  be  likely  to  involve 
the  Government  in  difficulty,  and  it  was  in  apprehension  of  that 
fact,  and  to  avoid  it,  I  encountered  much  obloquy  and  reproach 
at  the  beginning  of  the  rebellion,  and  labored  to  institute  a  less 
objectionable  policy. 

Propositions  for  privateers,  for  yacht  squadrons,  for  naval 
brigades,  volunteer  navy,  &c.,  &c.  were,  with  the  best  intentions 
in  most  instances,  pressed  upon  the  Dep't,  regardless  of  the  con- 
sequences that  might  follow  from  these  rude  schemes  of  private 
warfare.  It  was  to  relieve  us  of  the  necessity  of  going  into  these 
schemes  of  private  adventure,  that  the  "  Act  to  provide  for  the 
temporary  increase  of  the  Navy,"  approved  July  24,  1861,  was 
so  framed  as  to  give  authority  to  take  vessels  into  the  Naval 
service  and  appoint  officers  for  them,  temporarily,  to  any  extent 
which  the  President  may  deem  expedient.  Under  other  laws, 
seamen  may  be  enlisted  and  their  wages  fixed  by  executive  au- 
thority; and  the  officers  and  men  so  taken  temporarily  into  the 
Naval  service  are  subject  to  the  laws  for  the  government  of 
the  Navy.  An  "Act  for  the  better  government  of  the  Navy," 
approved  July  17, 1862,  grants  prize  money  to  "  any  armed  vessel 
in  the  service  of  the  United  States,"  in  the  same  manner  as  to 
vessels  of  the  Navy. 


These  laws,  therefore,  seem,  and  were  intended  to  provide  all 
the  advantages  of  letters  of  marque,  and  yet  prevent  in  a  great 
measure  the  abuses  liable  to  spring  from  them.  Private  armed 
vessels,  adopted  temporarily  into  the  Naval  service,  would  be 
more  certainly  and  immediately  under  the  control  of  the  govern- 
ment, than  if  acting  only  under  a  general  responsibility  to  law. 

It  will  be  necessary  to  establish  strict  rules  for  the  government 
of  private  armed  vessels,  as  to  some  extent  they  will  be  likely  to 
be  officered  and  manned  by  persons  of  rude  notions  and  free  hab- 
its. Congress  after  authorizing  Letters  of  Marque  in  the  War  of 
1812,  adopted  the  necessary  legislation  for  the  vessels  bearing 
them,  by  the  Act  of  June  26th  of  that  year.  This  act  has  not  been 
revived.  The  recent  "Act  concerning  letters  of  marque"  &c. 
&c.  authorizes  the  President  to  "make  all  needful  rules  and  reg- 
ulations for  the  government  and  conduct  of  private  armed  ves- 
sels, furnished  with  letters  of  marque."  In  pursuance  of  this  au- 
thorization, the  "  regulations  "  have  been  prepared,  embracing  the 
provisions  of  the  statute  enacted  during  the  War  of  1812.  These 
regulations  establish,  as  the  statute  did,  a  penal  code.  They  im- 
pose fines  and  assume  to  authorize  punishments,  including  even 
capital  punishment. 

As  suggested  in  our  interview,  I  question  the  validity  of  such 
proceedings.  Can  Congress  delegate  this  power  of  penal  legis- 
lation to  the  President?  and  if  to  the  President,  why  may  it  not 
to  any  branch  of  the  Executive? 

If  it  can  be  granted  for  this  special  purpose  —  the  government 
of  private  armed  vessels  —  why  not  for  any  other  purpose?  And 
if  it  can  delegate  the  power  of  penal  legislation,  why  could  it  not 
delegate  any  other  power,  or  powers,  to  the  President,  to  Com- 
missioners, or  even  to  a  Committee  of  its  own  body,  to  sit  during 
the  recess?  Why  could  it  not  delegate  to  the  Secretary  of  the 
Treasury  to  legislate  respecting  imports  and  foreign  trade,  or  to 
the  Post-Master  General  full  power  of  legislation  respecting 
post  offices  and  post  routes? 

The  power  of  imposing  penalties  and  inflicting  punishments 
is  the  essence  of  legislative  power,  for  it  is  the  penalty  of  trans- 
gression that  gives  force  to  law.  These  regulations  also  establish 
rewards  as  well  as  penalties.  They  provide  that  a  large  bounty 
shall  be  paid  to  private  armed  vessels  in  certain  cases.  But  no 
fund  is  appropriated  for  the  purpose  by  the  Act,  nor  has  any  pro- 
vision elsewhere  been  made  for  it.  Can  Congress  delegate  to  the 

1863]  THE  LETTERS  OF  MARQUE  255 

President  the  power  to  appropriate  the  public  moneys,  or  to  take 
them  without  specific  appropriation,  or  pledge  the  public  faith  at 
his  discretion  for  an  indefinite  amount? 

As  I  have  already  said,  I  have  doubts  in  these  particulars. 
They  are  expressed  with  some  reluctance,  because  in  the  uneasy 
condition  of  the  public  mind,  growing  out  of  the  lawless  de- 
predations of  the  semi-piratical  cruisers  that  are  abroad,  I  am 
unwilling  to  interpose  anything  which  may  be  construed  into  an 
obstacle,  to  repress  public  indignation,  which  is  so  justly  excited. 
I  did  not  regret  that  Congress  enacted  a  law  authorizing  letters 
of  marque;  because  I  verily  believe  that,  with  it,  England  can  be 
made  to  prevent  her  mercenary  citizens  from  making  war  on  our 
commerce  under  a  flag  that  has  no  recognized  nationality.  If  the 
police  of  the  sea  is  to  be  surrendered,  and  rovers  built  by  English 
capital  and  manned  by  Englishmen  are  to  be  let  loose  to  plunder 
our  commerce,  let  England  understand  that  her  ships  will  suffer, 
and  her  commerce  also  be  annoyed  and  injured  by  private  armed 
ships.  With  her  distant  and  dependent  colonies,  no  nation  has 
greater  cause  to  oppose  maritime  robbery  and  plunder,  such  as 
is  being  inflicted  on  us  by  Englishmen  and  English  capital,  than 
Great  Britain. 

The  West  Indies  are,  notoriously,  harbors  of  refuge  for  the 
corsairs  that  are  plundering  our  merchants,  as  well  as  for  the  in- 
famous and  demoralizing  business  of  running  our  blockade,  to 
encourage  the  insurgents  who  are  waging  war  on  our  government. 
Of  these  ports,  those  of  England  are  the  worst,  and  a  vast  amount 
of  English  capital  is  engaged  in  illicit  traffic,  and  her  people  and 
authorities  exhibit  sympathy  for,  and  afford  aid  to,  the  insurgents 
and  their  abettors,  and  corresponding  opposition  to  this  Govern- 

The  English  ship-yards  are  filled  with  vessels  built  and  build- 
ing for  the  rebel  service,  and  if  measures  are  not  taken  to  pre- 
vent, these  will  soon  swarm  the  seas  to  capture,  condemn  and 
destroy  American  property,  without  a  port  into  which  they  can 
send  their  captures  for  adjudication.  Enjoying  greater  advan- 
tages than  the  corsairs  and  sea-rovers  that  once  infested  the 
ocean,  because  protected,  harbored,  &  sheltered  by  governments 
in  alliance  with,  and  professedly  friendly  to  us,  while  ordinary 
pirates  are  outlaws,  this  species  of  lawless  outrage  cannot  be 
permitted  to  go  on. 

England  should  be  warned  that  we  cannot  permit  this  indirect 


war  to  continue  with  impunity  —  that  it  will  provoke  and  justify 
retaliation,  and  that  if  her  people  and  government  make  war 
upon  our  commerce,  by  sending  abroad  rovers  with  no  nationality, 
to  prey  upon  the  property  of  our  citizens,  it  will  be  impossible  to 
restrain  our  people  from  retaliatory  measures. 

I  am,  respectfully, 
Your  Obdt.  Servt. 


TT      TIT     TT  a  Secty.  of  Navy. 


Secty.  of  State. 

Informed  Admiral  Foote  that  the  Secretary  of  State  de- 
sired he  should  go  to  New  York  in  the  service  of  the  State 
Department,  on  the  subject  of  letters  of  marque.  He  ex- 
pressed his  readiness  to  obey  orders,  but  asked  the  object 
of  detailing  him.  I  gave  him  an  outline  of  proceedings  and 
what  appeared  to  be  the  purpose  of  Mr.  Seward,  which  was 
not  very  clear,  or  could  not  be  plainly  stated.  No  doubt  he 
believes  it  will  give  importance  to  the  Secretary  of  State 
to  have  a  naval  officer  of  the  standing  of  Foote  attached  to 
the  State  Department  and  acting  under  its  orders. 

The  President  called  at  my  house  this  evening,  chiefly  to 
see  the  letter  which  I  had  prepared  concerning  letters  of 
marque.  Senator  Sumner  had  gone  directly  from  the  Navy 
Department  to  him,  and  so  made  known  his  gratification 
at  my  views  and  the  manner  in  which  I  had  stated  them 
that  the  curiosity  of  the  President  was  excited  and  he  de- 
sired to  read  the  letter.  I  informed  him  that  the  last  thing 
I  did  before  leaving  the  Department  was  to  sign  and  send  it 
to  the  Secretary  of  State;  that  I  perhaps  should  not  have 
done  it,  though,  as  he  (the  President)  was  aware,  I  had  dif- 
fered with  him  and  others  on  this  subject  and  looked  upon 
it  as  a  dangerous  step,  but  since  reading  the  last  English 
dispatches,  I  was  less  opposed  to  the  measure  than  I  had 

The  opportunity  being  favorable  and  he  disposed  to  con- 
verse and  apparently  interested  in  my  remarks,  I  took  oc- 
casion to  enlarge  upon  the  topic  more  fully  than  I  had  done 

1863]        A  TALK  WITH  THE  PRESIDENT        257 

in  our  Cabinet  discussions.  I  started  out  with  the  proposi- 
tion that  to  issue  letters  of  marque  would  in  all  probability 
involve  us  in  a  war  with  England.  [I  said]  that  I  had  so 
viewed  this  question  from  the  beginning,  though  he  and 
Mr.  Seward  had  not;  that  I  was  not  prepared  to  deny  that 
it  might  not  be  best  for  us  to  move  promptly  with  that  ob- 
ject in  view,  though  it  had  not  yet  been  urged  or  stated; 
but  that  if  we  were  to  resort  to  letters  of  marque  we  should 
do  it  understandingly  and  with  all  the  consequences  before 
us.  The  idea  that  private  parties  would  send  out  armed 
ships  to  capture  the  Alabama  and  one,  possibly  two,  other 
rovers  of  the  Rebels  was  too  absurd  to  be  thought  of  for 
a  moment.  If  privateers  were  fitted  out  for  any  purpose 
it  would  be  to  capture  neutral  vessels  intended  to  run  the 
blockade  or  supposed  to  be  in  that  service.  It  was  not  dif- 
ficult for  us  to  foresee  that  such  a  power  in  private  hands 
would  degenerate  into  an  abuse  for  which  this  Government 
would  be  held  responsible.  The  Rebels  have  no  commerce 
to  invite  private  enterprise.  So  far  as  the  Rebels  were  con- 
cerned, therefore,  I  had  been  opposed  to  committing  the 
Government  to  the  measure.  But  the  disclosures  recently 
made  had  given  a  different  aspect  to  the  question.  There 
was  little  doubt  the  British  Government  and  British  capital 
were  encouraging  the  rebellion;  that  that  Government 
intended  to  interpose  no  obstacle  to  prevent  the  sending 
out  of  privateers  from  British  ports  to  depredate  upon  our 
commerce;  that  these  privateers,  though  sailing  under  the 
Confederate  flag,  would  be  the  property  of  British  mer- 
chants; that  the  rich  plunder  would  repay  the  lawless  Eng- 
lish adventurer,  knowing  he  had  the  sanction  of  his  Govern- 
ment; that  this  combination  of  British  capital  with  Rebel 
malignity  and  desperation  would  despoil  our  commerce  and 
drive  it  from  the  seas.  Our  countrymen  would  not  quietly 
submit  to  these  wrongs  and  outrages,  and  allow  English- 
men to  make  war  upon  us  hi  disguise  under  the  Rebel  flag. 
We  ought,  therefore,  to  have  an  immediate  and  distinct 
understanding  with  the  English  Government.  It  should  be 


informed  in  terms  that  could  not  be  mistaken  or  misunder- 
stood that  if  this  policy  was  persisted  in  we  should  in  self- 
defense  be  under  the  necessity  of  resorting  to  reprisals.  In 
this  view  the  law  which  authorized  letters  of  marque  had 
appeared  to  me  proper,  and  might  be  made  useful  as  a  men- 
ace and  admonition  to  England;  and  I  repeated  what  I  had 
said  to  the  Secretary  of  State  in  reply  to  a  remark  of  his 
that  we  must  make  more  extensive  naval  operations  against 
the  Rebels  by  issuing  letters  of  marque  to  annoy  them,  — 
that  letters  of  marque,  instead  of  annoying  them,  destitute 
as  they  were  of  commerce,  would  aid  them,  for  that  step 
would  involve  war  with  England.  If  the  Secretary  of  State 
would  be  less  yielding  and  more  decisive  in  asserting  our 
rights  with  that  power,  it  would,  I  thought,  be  better  for  the 

I  then  opened  on  the  subject  generally.  England  is  tak- 
ing advantage  of  our  misfortunes  and  would  press  upon  us 
just  as  far  as  we  would  bear  to  be  pressed.  She  rejoiced  in 
our  dissensions  and  desired  the  dismemberment  of  the 
Union.  With  this  rebellion  on  our  hands  we  were  in  no 
condition  for  a  war  with  her,  and  it  was  because  we  were 
in  this  condition  that  she  was  arrogant  and  presuming.  A 
higher  and  more  decisive  tone  towards  her  will  secure  a  dif- 
ferent policy  on  her  part.  A  war  with  England  would  be  a 
serious  calamity  to  us,  but  scarcely  less  serious  to  her.  She 
cannot  afford  a  maritime  conflict  with  us,  even  in  our  trou- 
bles, nor  will  she.  We  can  live  within  ourselves  if  worse 
comes  to  worse.  Our  territory  is  compact,  facing  both 
oceans,  and  in  latitudes  which  furnish  us  in  abundance  with- 
out foreign  aid  all  the  necessaries  and  most  of  the  luxuries 
of  life;  but  England  has  a  colonial  system  which  was  once 
her  strength,  but  is  her  weakness  in  these  days  and  with 
such  a  people  as  our  countrymen  to  contend  with.  Her 
colonies  are  scattered  over  the  globe.  We  could,  with  our 
public  and  private  armed  ships,  interrupt  and  destroy  her 
communication  with  her  dependencies,  her  colonies,  on 
which  she  is  as  dependent  for  prosperity  as  they  on  her. 

1863)         THE  ATTITUDE  OF  ENGLAND          259 

I  was  therefore  in  favor  of  meeting  her  face  to  face,  asking 
only  what  is  right  but  submitting  to  nothing  that  is  wrong. 

If  the  late  dispatches  are  to  be  taken  as  the  policy  she 
intends  to  pursue,  it  means  war,  and  if  war  is  to  come  it 
looks  to  me  as  of  a  magnitude  greater  than  the  world  has 
ever  experienced, — as  if  it  would  eventuate  in  the  upheaval 
of  nations,  the  overthrow  of  governments  and  dynasties. 
The  sympathies  of  the  mass  of  mankind  would  be  with  us 
rather  than  with  the  decaying  dynasties  and  the  old  effete 
governments.  Not  unlikely  the  conflict  thus  commenced 
would  kindle  the  torch  of  civil  war  throughout  Christen- 
dom, and  even  nations  beyond.  I  desired  no  such  conflict 
in  my  day,  and  therefore  hoped  and  believed  the  policy  and 
tone  of  England  might  be  modified,  but  it  would  require 
energy,  resolution,  and  a  firm  determination  on  our  part  to 
effect  it. 

The  President  listened,  for  I  did  most  of  the  talking,  as 
he  evidently  wished,  and  showed  much  interest  and  accord 
in  what  I  said.  He  assented  consequently  to  most  that  I 
uttered  and  controverted  nothing.  It  was  evident  I  sug- 
gested some  ideas  that  had  not  before  occurred  to  him,  and 
I  am  not  without  hope  that  the  tone  of  our  foreign  affairs, 
particularly  with  England,  may  be  different. 

The  President  spoke,  as  he  always  has  done  with  me, 
doubtingly  of  Porter's  schemes  on  the  Mississippi,  or 
rather  the  side  movements  to  the  Yazoo  on  the  east  and 
Red  River  on  the  west.  Said  the  long  delay  of  Du  Pont, 
his  constant  call  foj  more  ships,  more  ironclads,  was  like 
McClellan  calling  for  more  regiments.  Thought  the  two 
men  were  alike,  and  said  he  was  prepared  for  a  repulse  at 

April  3,  Friday.  Had  some  side  talk  with  Seward  at  the 
Cabinet-meeting,  on  letters  of  marque.  He  persists  in  the 
policy,  but  I  think  begins  to  have  some  misgivings.  Insists 
on  having  a  naval  officer  assigned  him,  on  whom  he  can 
devolve  the  labor.  I  requested  him  to  employ  some  of  his 


own  Department  force  or  a  civilian  in  whom  he  had  con- 
fidence; told  him  the  subject  belonged  exclusively  to  the 
State  Department;  the  Secretary  of  State  had  it  in  charge 
in  the  War  of  1812  by  law,  and  I  desired  the  Navy  should 
not  now  be  blended  with  the  proceeding.  He  admitted 
his  object  in  asking  for  a  naval  officer  was  to  be  relieved  of 
responsibility  and  details.  The  truth  is,  he  has  pressed  for- 
ward this  measure  without  knowledge,  or  examination,  or 
practical  experience,  but  has  vague  indefinite  notions  that 
privateers  may  be  efficient  against  the  Rebels,  that  they 
will  constitute  a  force  appendant  to  his  Department,  that 
there  will  be  many  of  them,  and  that  he  will  derive  credit 
from  then*  exploits.  If  his  scheme  fails,  and  a  naval  officer 
has  charge  of  that  part  of  his  duties,  the  Navy  and  Navy 
Department  will  bear  the  censure.  Foote,  whom  he  most 
desires  should  be  detailed,  adroitly  declines  the  honor  of 
being  attached  to  the  State  Department  in  this  work,  and 
has  recommended  Admiral  Davis,  who  is  acceptable  and 
willing  to  take  the  position  which  Foote  declines. 

Seward  tells  me  he  already  has  an  application  from  re- 
sponsible parties  who  want  a  letter  of  marque,  and  assures 
me  there  will  be  a  flood  of  applications,  but  I  am  still 
incredulous.  Our  merchants  will  not  spend  their  money  hi 
the  idle  scheme  of  attempting  to  spear  sharks  for  wool. 
In  the  case  of  this  first  application  Seward  wishes  me,  as 
he  is  not  yet  prepared  and  the  parties  are  ready,  to  take 
the  case  as  I  have  suggested  might  be  done  under  the  Act 
of  July,  1861 ;  says  it  will  only  be  temporary. 

Late  in  the  day  Davis  came  to  me  from  the  State  Depart- 
ment with  the  papers  hi  this  case.  I  find  they  are  not 
unknown  to  me.  One  Sybert,  a  Prussian,  I  believe,  by  birth 
but  a  citizen  of  South  Carolina,  wants  to  go  privateering. 
He  called  on  me  some  days  ago  for  papers,  and  I  sent 
him  to  the  State  Department.  I  warned  Davis  to  beware 
of  adventurers,  and  expressed  my  want  of  confidence  in 
the  man  and  the  movement,  though  Seward  declared  the 
parties  were  responsible. 

1863]        AN  APPLICATION  FOR  LETTERS        261 

April  4,  Saturday.  Had  a  message  from  the  President, 
who  wished  to  see  me  and  also  Assistant  Secretary  Fox. 
Found  the  matter  in  hand  to  be  the  Prussian  adventurer 
Sybert,  who  was  anxious  his  vessel  should  be  taken  into  the 
naval  service.   The  President  said  Seward  was  extremely 
anxious  this  should  be  done  and  had  sent  Sybert  to  him.  I 
inquired  if  he  had  seen  Sybert.  He  replied  that  he  had  and 
that  the  man  was  now  in  the  audience  room.  He  learned 
from  Seward  and  Sybert  that  he  (Sybert)  had  a  vessel  of 
one  hundred  tons  into  which  he  would  put  a  screw,  if 
authorized,  would  go  on  blockade,  and  would  do  more  than 
the  whole  squadron  of  naval  vessels.  I  asked  the  President 
if  he  gave  credit  to  the  promises  of  this  man,  whom  Mr. 
Seward  had  sent  to  me  as  coming  from  responsible  parties, 
though  I  knew  none  of  them,  had  seen  or  heard  of  none  but 
this  adventurer  himself.  [I  told  him]  that  he  had  first 
applied  to  me  and  I  would  not  trust  or  be  troubled  with 
him  after  a  slight  examination,  but  that  I  had  sent  him  to 
Seward,  who  was  then  pushing  forward  his  regulations  for 
letters  of  marque,  to  which  he  knew  I  was  opposed ;  and  the 
result  was  Mr.  Seward  wanted  me  to  take  his  first  case,  and 
had  asked  that  the  Assistant  Secretary,  Fox,  should  be 
present  with  Sybert.  After  a  little  further  conversation, the 
President,  instead  of  sending  Sybert  back  to  Seward,  said 
he  would  turn  him  over  to  the  Navy  Department  to  be  dis- 
posed of.  This  ends  Mr.  Seward's  first  application,  and 
probably  it  will  be  the  last.   Knowing  my  views,  he  had 
gone  to  the  President  with  his  prote'ge',  and  knowing  my 
views  but  in  the  hope  he  might  have  some  encouragement 
from  Fox,  had  requested  the  President  to  consult  with  Fox 
as  well  as  myself.  I  know  not  that  he  requested  me  to  be 
excluded  on  account  of  my  opposition,  but  he  requested 
that  the  Assistant  Secretary  should  be  consulted.  And  Fox 
assures  me  he  has  never  swerved  from  my  views  on  this 
subject.  It  is  a  specimen  of  Seward's  management. 

April  6,  Monday.  Great  interest  is  felt  in  the  result  of 


the  Connecticut  election,  one  of  the  most  animated  and 
exciting  elections  ever  known.  Issues  broad  and  distinct. 
Thousands  will  vote  for  Seymour  under  the  discipline  and 
delusion  of  party  who  have  not  the  remotest  thought  of 
being  disloyal. 

Senator  Sumner  called  upon  me  this  P.M.  and  gave  a 
curious  narrative  concerning  my  letter  to  Seward  on  the 
subject  of  letters  of  marque,  and  of  the  difficulty  the  Presi- 
dent had  in  getting  it.  When  finally  obtained,  he  informed 
and  called  in  Sumner,  and  the  two  sat  down  and  the  Pre- 
sident deliberately  read  it  aloud.  They  then  criticized  it 
carefully,  and  when  they  were  through,  Sumner  says  the 
President  spoke  complimentarily  of  the  letter  and  very 
complimentarily  of  me. 

Rumors  are  current  and  thick  respecting  Charleston,  but 
they  are  all  conjectural.  A  movement  against  the  place  is 
expected  about  these  days,  but  there  has  not  been  time  to 
hear  of  it.  I  have  great  anxiety  and  great  apprehension. 
Operations  have  gone  on  slowly  and  reluctantly. 

The  report  of  the  "Committee  on  the  Conduct  of  the 
War  "  is  to-day  published.  This  method  of  supervising  mil- 
itary operations  by  legislative  committee  is  of  more  than 
questionable  utility.  Little  good  can  be  expected  of  these 
partisan  supervisors  of  the  Government  at  any  time.  They 
are  partisan  and  made  up  of  persons  not  very  competent 
to  form  correct  and  intelligent  opinions  of  Army  or  Navy 
operations,  or  administrative  purposes.  In  this  instance, 
I  think,  from  a  slight  look  into  a  few  pages,  there  is  more 
truth  from  them  than  usual  in  these  cases. 

April  7,  Tuesday.  The  result  of  the  election  in  Con- 
necticut yesterday  is  gratifying.  Buckingham  is  reflected 
Governor  by  three  thousand  majority. 

The  President  has  not  returned  from  the  Rappahan- 
nock.  There  was  consequently  no  Cabinet-meeting. 

Consul  Dudley  at  Liverpool  writes  that  he  is  instituting 
legal  proceedings  in  the  English  courts  against  some  of  the 


vessels  which  the  Rebels,  aided  by  English  capital,  are  fitting 
out,  but  meets  with  discouragement  or  has  no  encourage- 
ment in  unexpected  quarters.  Wrote  Mr.  Seward  that  the 
zeal  of  Dudley  should  be  commended,  and  unless  very  de- 
cided measures  are  taken,  and  strong  representations  made, 
we  shall  be  involved  in  difficulty.  John  Bull  must  under- 
stand that  whilst  we  deprecate  war,  we  don't  fear  him  and 
shall  not  passively  submit  to  outrage  and  aggression.  A 
loan  of  fifteen  million  dollars  has  recently  been  made  to  the 
Rebels  by  English  capitalists,  which  would  never  have  been 
consummated  had  the  English  officials  disapproved.  With 
these  means,  which  the  Englishmen  will  ultimately  lose, 
the  Rebels  can  purchase  vessels,  ordnance,  munitions,  and 
prolong  the  war.  Mercenary  England  will  be  benefited  if 
our  commerce  is  destroyed,  and  our  country  be  weakened 
and  exhausted.  Sumner  thinks  the  alliance  with  slavery 
will  be  so  unpopular  with  the  English  people  as  to  restrain 
the  Government,  but  confesses  he  begins  to  have  fearful 

April  8,  Wednesday.  An  oppressive  and  anxious  feeling 
in  relation  to  movements  at  Charleston.  It  has  been 
expected  an  attack  would  be  made  the  first  week  in  April. 
We  hear  nothing.  The  Rebel  authorities  permit  their 
papers  to  publish  nothing,  nor  will  they  allow  the  flag  of 
truce  to  bring  us  their  papers.  This  intensifies  the  desire 
to  learn  something  of  proceedings. 

I  have  a  telegram  from  the  President  this  evening  at 
"Headquarters  near  Falmouth,"  stating  that  he  had  a 
Richmond  paper  exchanged  by  the  picket  or  scouts,  and 
he  sends  me  all  it  contains  relative  to  operations  at  Charles- 
ton. Our  ironclads  have  appeared  off  the  bar,  and  the  day 
of  trial  approaches. 

Great  results  are  depending  on  the  conflicts  which  are 
taking  place  in  these  early  April  days.  I  bear  up  with,  I 
believe,  a  fair  share  of  composure.  As  regards  the  Navy, 
we  have  furnished  Du  Pont  the  best  material  of  men  and 


ships  that  were  ever  placed  under  the  command  of  any  offi- 
cer on  this  continent  and,  as  regards  officers,  unequalled  any- 
where or  at  any  time.  Of  course  I  have  confidence  he  will 
be  successful,  yet  so  much  depends  on  the  result  I  am  not 
without  apprehensions.  Eventuate  as  it  may,  the  struggle 
will  probably  be  severe  and  bloody.  That  we  shall  lose 
some  vessels  and  some  gallant  fellows  in  getting  possession 
of  the  Rebel  city  I  have  no  doubt.  As  John  Rodgers  says, 
"somebody  must  be  hurt." 

April  9,  Thursday.  A  yearning,  craving  desire  for  tidings 
from  Charleston,  but  the  day  has  passed  without  a  word. 
They  send  us  from  the  front  that  there  is  great  repose 
and  quiet  in  the  Rebel  camp,  which  is  a  favorable  indica- 
tion, for  when  they  have  successes  there  is  immense  cheer- 
ing. Again  I  have  a  dispatch  from  the  President  at  Head- 
quarters this  evening.  He  has  a  Richmond  paper  of  to-day 
and  sends  me  the  contents.  The  ironclads  have  crossed  the 
bar.  The  paper  speaks  with  assurance,  yet  there  are  fore- 
bodings of  what  is  to  be  apprehended.  Says  Charleston 
will  be  a  Saragossa. 

A  desperate  stand  will  be  made  at  Charleston,  and  their 
defenses  are  formidable.  Delay  has  given  them  time  and 
warning,  and  they  have  unproved  them.  They  know  also 
that  there  is  no  city  so  culpable,  or  against  which  there  is 
such  intense  animosity.  We  shall  not  get  the  place,  if  we 
get  it  at  all  on  this  first  trial,  without  great  sacrifice.  There 
are  fifty-two  steamers  for  the  work  and  the  most  formida- 
ble ironclad  force  that  ever  went  into  battle.  These  great 
and  long-delayed  preparations  weigh  heavily  upon  me.  As 
a  general  thing,  such  immense  expeditions  are  failures. 
Providence  delights  to  humble  man  and  prostrate  his 
strength.  For  months  my  confidence  has  not  increased, 
and  now  that  the  conflict  is  upon  us,  my  disquietude  is 
greater  still.  I  have  hope  and  trust  in  Du  Pont,  in  the  glo- 
rious band  of  officers  that  are  with  him,  and  in  the  iron 
bulwarks  we  have  furnished  as  well  as  in  a  righteous  cause. 

1863]          RUMORS  FROM  CHARLESTON  265 

The  President,  who  has  often  a  sort  of  intuitive  sagacity, 
has  spoken  discouragingly  of  operations  at  Charleston  dur- 
ing the  whole  season.  Du  Font's  dispatches  and  movements 
have  not  inspired  him  with  faith;  they  remind  him,  he  says, 
of  McClellan.  Fox,  who  has  more  naval  knowledge  and  ex- 
perience and  who  is  better  informed  of  Charleston  and  its 
approaches,  which  he  has  visited,  and  the  capabilities  and 
efficiency  of  our  officers  and  ships,  entertains  not  a  doubt 
of  success.  His  reliant  confidence  and  undoubted  assur- 
ance, have  encouraged  and  sustained  me  when  doubtful.  I 
do  not  believe  the  monitors  impregnable,  as  he  does,  under 
the  concentrated  fire  and  immense  weight  of  metal  that  can 
be  thrown  upon  them,  but  it  can  hardly  be  otherwise  than 
that  some,  probably  that  most  of  them,  will  pass  Sumter. 
What  man  can  do,  our  brave  fellows  will  accomplish,  but 
impossibilities  cannot  be  overcome.  We  must  wait  pa- 
tiently but  not  without  hope. 

April  10,  Friday.  The  President  has  not  yet  returned. 
The  Cabinet  did  not  convene  to-day.  Affairs  look  uncom- 
fortable in  North  Carolina.  The  army  there  needs  rein- 
forcing, and  had  we  Charleston  we  would  send  more 
vessels  into  those  waters. 

Neither  the  War  Department  nor  army  men  entertain 
an  idea  that  the  Rebels  have  withdrawn  any  of  their  forces 
from  the  Rappahannock  to  go  into  North  Carolina,  but  I 
have  apprehensions  that  such  may  be  the  case.  From  what 
quarter  but  that  can  they  have  collected  the  large  force 
that  is  now  pressing  Foster? 

We  have  more  definite  yet  not  wholly  reliable  rumors 
from  Charleston.  A  contest  took  place  on  the  afternoon  of 
the  7th,  Tuesday,  of  three  hours,  from  two  till  five.  Two  of 
our  vessels  are  reported  injured,  —  the  Keokuk,  said  to  be 
sunk  on  Morris  Island,  and  the  Ironsides,  disabled.  Neither 
is  a  turret  vessel.  On  the  whole,  this  account,  if  not  what 
we  wish,  is  not  very  discouraging.  The  movement  I  judged 
to  have  been  merely  a  reconnoissance,  to  feel  and  pioneer 


the  way  for  the  grand  attack.  Fox  persists  that  the  iron- 
clads are  invulnerable.  I  shall  not  be  surprised  if  some  are 
damaged,  perhaps  disabled.  In  fact,  I  have  supposed  that 
some  of  them  would  probably  be  sunk,  and  shall  be  satis- 
fied if  we  lose  several  and  get  Charleston.  I  hope  we  shall 
not  lose  them  and  fail  to  get  the  city. 

April  11,  Saturday.  The  President  returned  from  Head- 
quarters of  the  Army  and  sent  for  me  this  A.M.  Seward, 
Chase,  Stanton,  and  Halleck  were  present,  and  Fox  came 
in  also.  He  gave  particulars  so  far  as  he  had  collected  them, 
not  differing  essentially  from  ours. 

An  army  dispatch  received  this  P.M.  from  Fortress  Mon- 
roe says  the  Flambeau  has  arrived  in  Hampton  Roads 
from  Charleston;  that  our  vessels  experienced  a  repulse; 
some  of  the  monitors  were  injured.  The  information  is  as 
confused  and  indefinite  as  the  Rebel  statements.  Tele- 
graphed to  Admiral  Lee  to  send  the  Flambeau  to  Washing- 
ton. Let  us  have  the  dispatches. 

Seward  is  in  great  trouble  about  the  mail  of  the  Peter- 
hoff,  a  captured  blockade-runner.  Wants  the  mail  given 
up.  Says  the  instructions  which  he  prepared  insured  the 
inviolability  and  security  of  the  mails.  I  told  him  he  had 
no  authority  to  prepare  such  instructions,  that  the  law 
was  paramount,  and  that  anything  which  he  proposed  in 
opposition  to  and  disregarding  the  law  was  not  observed. 

He  called  at  my  house  this  evening  with  a  letter  from 
Lord  Lyons  inclosing  dispatches  from  Archibald,  English 
Consul  at  New  York.  Wanted  me  to  send,  and  order  the 
mail  to  be  immediately  given  up  and  sent  forward.  I  de- 
clined. Told  him  the  mail  was  properly  and  legally  in  the 
custody  of  the  court  and  beyond  Executive  control;  as- 
sured him  there  would  be  no  serious  damage  from  delay  if 
the  mail  was  finally  surrendered,  but  I  was  inclined  to  be- 
lieve the  sensitiveness  of  both  Lord  Lyons  and  Archibald 
had  its  origin  in  the  fact  that  the  mail  contained  matter 


which  would  condemn  the  vessel.  "But,"  said  Seward, 
"mails  are  sacred;  they  are  an  institution."  I  replied  that 
would  do  for  peace  but  not  for  war;  that  he  was  clothed  with 
no  authority  to  concede  the  surrender  of  the  mail;  that  by 
both  statute  and  international  law  they  must  go  to  the 
court;  that  if  his  arrangement,  of  which  I  knew  nothing, 
meant  anything,  the  most  that  could  be  conceded  or  negoti- 
ated would  be  to  mails  on  regular  recognized  neutral  pack- 
ets and  not  to  blockade-runners  and  irregular  vessels  with 
contraband  like  the  Peterhoff .  He  dwelt  on  an  arrangement 
entered  into  between  himself  and  the  British  Legation,  and 
the  difficulty  which  would  follow  a  breach  on  our  part.  I 
inquired  if  he  had  any  authority  to  make  an  arrangement 
that  was  in  conflict  with  the  express  provisions  of  the  stat- 
utes, —  whether  it  was  a  treaty  arrangement  confirmed  by 
the  Senate.  Told  him  the  law  and  the  courts  must  govern 
in  this  matter.  The  Secretary  of  State  and  the  Executive 
were  powerless.  We  could  not  interfere. 

April  12,  Sunday.  An  intense  and  anxious  feeling  on  all 
hands  respecting  Charleston.  Went  early  to  the  Depart- 
ment. About  11  A.M.  a  dispatch  from  the  Navy  Yard  that 
the  Flambeau  had  not  arrived.  The  President  and  Stanton 
came  in  a  little  after  noon  and  waited  half  an  hour,  but 
it  was  then  reported  the  Flambeau  was  not  yet  in  sight. 
I  came  home  much  dejected.  Between  2  and  3  P.M. 
Commander  Rhind  of  the  Keokuk,  Upshur,  and  Lieuten- 
ant Forrest  called  at  my  house  with  dispatches  from  Du 
Pont.  They  were  not  very  full  or  satisfactory,  —  contained 
no  details.  He  has  no  idea  of  taking  Charleston  by  the 
Navy.  In  this  I  am  not  disappointed.  He  has  been  coming 
to  that  conclusion  for  months,  though  he  has  not  said  so. 
The  result  of  this  demonstration,  though  not  a  success,  is 
not  conclusive.  The  monitor  vessels  have  proved  their 
resisting  power,  and,  but  for  the  submarine  obstructions, 
would  have  passed  the  forts  and  gone  to  the  wharves  of 
Charleston.  This  in  itself  is  a  great  achievement. 


Went  to  the  Executive  Mansion.  Read  the  dispatches 
to  and  had  full  conversation  with  the  President.  Sumner 
came  in  and  participated. 

Rhind,  an  impulsive  but  brave  and  rash  man,  has  lost  all 
confidence  in  armored  vessels.  When  he  took  command  of 
the  Keokuk  his  confidence  was  unbounded.  His  repulse 
and  the  loss  of  his  vessel  have  entirely  changed  his  views. 
It  was,  I  apprehend,  because  of  this  change  and  his  new 
appointment  to  armored  vessels  that  he  was  sent  forward 
with  dispatches.  He  has,  I  see,  been  tutored.  Thinks 
wooden  vessels  with  great  speed  would  do  as  well  as  iron- 
clads. I  agreed  that  speed  was  valuable,  but  the  monitors 
were  formidable.  In  this  great  fight  the  accounts  speak  of 
but  a  single  man  killed  and  some  ten  or  twelve  wounded. 
What  wooden  or  unarmored  vessels  could  have  come  out 
of  such  a  fight  with  so  few  disasters.  No  serious  injury 
happened  to  the  flagship,  the  Ironsides,  which,  from  some 
accident,  did  not  get  into  the  fight.  We  had  expected  Du 
Pont  and  the  ironclads  would  pass  Sumter  and  the  forts 
and  receive  their  fire,  but  not  stop  to  encounter  them. 

Du  Pont  has  been  allowed  to  decide  for  himself  in  regard 
to  proceedings,  has  selected,  and  had,  the  best  officers  and 
vessels  in  the  service,  and  his  force  is  in  every  respect 
picked  and  chosen.  Perhaps  I  have  erred  in  not  giving  him 
orders.  Possibly  the  fact  that  he  was  assured  all  was  con- 
fided to  him  depressed  and  oppressed  him  with  the  respons- 
ibility, and  has  prevented  him  from  telling  me  freely  and 
without  reserve  his  doubts,  apprehensions.  I  have  for  some 
tune  felt  that  he  wanted  the  confidence  that  is  essential  to 
success.  His  constant  call  for  more  ironclads  —  for  aid  — 
has  been  a  trial.  He  has  been  long,  very  long,  getting  ready, 
and  finally  seems  to  have  come  to  a  standstill,  so  far  as  I 
can  learn  from  Rhind,  who  is,  if  not  stampeded,  disgusted, 
demoralized,  and  wholly  upset.  It  is  not  fear,  for  he  has 
courage,  —  to  daring,  to  rashness,  —  and  his  zeal,  tempera- 
ment, and  ardor  are  by  nature  enthusiastic.  But  these  qual- 
ities are  gone.  Why  Du  Pont  should  have  sent  him  home  to 


howl,  or  with  a  howl,  I  do  not  exactly  understand.  If  it 
was  to  strengthen  faith  in  himself  and  impair  faith  in  the 
monitors  the  selection  was  well  made.  Rhind  had  too  much 
confidence  in  his  vessel  before  entering  the  harbor,  and 
has  too  little  in  any  vessel  now. 

April  13,  Monday.  Wrote  Seward  a  letter  on  the  subject 
of  captured  mails,  growing  out  of  the  prize  Peterhoff.  On 
the  18th  of  August  last  I  prepared  a  set  of  instructions 
embracing  the  mails,  on  which  Seward  had  unwittingly  got 
committed.  The  President  requested  that  this  should  be 
done  in  conformity  with  certain  arrangements  which  Sew- 
ard had  made  with  the  foreign  ministers.  I  objected  that 
the  instructions  which  Mr.  Seward  had  prepared  in  consul- 
tation with  the  foreigners  were  unjust  to  ourselves  and  con- 
trary to  usage  and  to  law,  but  to  get  clear  of  the  difficulty 
they  were  so  far  modified  as  to  not  directly  violate  the  stat- 
utes, though  there  remained  something  invidious  towards 
naval  officers  which  I  did  not  like.  The  budget  of  conces- 
sions was,  indeed,  wholly  against  ourselves,  and  the  coven- 
ants were  made  without  any  accurate  knowledge  on  the 
part  of  the  Secretary  of  State  when  they  were  given  of  what 
he  was  yielding.  But  the  whole,  in  the  shape  in  which  the 
instructions  were  finally  put,  passed  off  very  well.  Ultim- 
ately, however,  the  circular  containing  among  other  mat- 
ters these  instructions  by  some  instrumentality  got  into  the 
papers,  and  the  concessions  were,  even  after  they  were  cut 
down,  so  great  that  the  Englishmen  complimented  the  Sec- 
retary of  State  for  his  liberal  views.  The  incense  was  so 
pleasant  that  Mr.  Seward  on  the  30th  of  October  wrote  me 
a  supercilious  letter  stating  it  was  expedient  our  naval  of- 
ficers should  forward  the  mails  captured  on  blockade-run- 
ners, etc.,  to  their  destination  as  speedily  as  possible,  with- 
out their  being  searched  or  opened.  The  tone  and  manner 
of  the  letter  were  supercilious  and  offensive,  the  concession 
disreputable  and  unwarrantable,  the  surrender  of  our  indis- 
putable rights  disgraceful,  and  the  whole  thing  unstates- 


manlike  and  illegal,  unjust  to  the  Navy  and  the  country, 
and  discourteous  to  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy  and  the 
President,  who  had  not  been  consulted.  I  said  to  Mr. 
Seward  at  the  time,  last  November,  that  the  circular  of  the 
18th  of  August  had  gone  far  enough,  and  was  yielding  more 
than  was  authorized,  except  by  legislation  or  treaty.  He 
said  his  object  was  to  keep  the  peace,  to  soothe  and  calm 
the  English  and  French  for  a  few  weeks. 

Lord  Lyons  now  writes  very  adroitly  that  the  seizure  of 
the  Peterhoff  mails  was  in  violation  of  the  order  of  our  Gov- 
ernment as  "  communicated  to  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy 
on  the  31st  of  October."  He  makes  no  claim  for  surrender 
by  right,  or  usage,  or  the  law  of  nations,  but  it  was  by  the 
order  of  our  Government  to  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy.  No 
such  order  was  ever  given  by  the  Government.  None  could 
be  given  but  by  law  of  Congress.  The  Secretary  of  the  Navy 
does  not  receive  orders  from  the  Secretary  of  State,  and 
though  I  doubt  not  Mr.  Seward  in  an  excitable  and  inflated 
moment  promised  and  penned  his  absurd  note,  which  he 
called  an  order  when  conversing  with  them,  —  gave  it  to 
them  as  such,  —  yet  I  never  deemed  it  of  sufficient  conse- 
quence to  even  answer  or  notice  further  than  in  a  conversa- 
tion to  tell  him  it  was  illegal. 

13  April,  1863. 


I  have  the  honor  to  acknowledge  the  receipt  of  your  com- 
munication of  the  llth  inst.,  enclosing  a  note  of  Lord  Lyons  and 
correspondence  relative  to  the  mail  of  the  Peterhoff. 

His  Lordship  complains  that  the  Peterhoff's  mails  were  dealt 
with,  "both  at  Key  West  and  at  New  York  in  a  manner  which  is 
not  in  accordance  with  the  views  of  the  Government  of  the  United 
States,  as  stated  in  your  letter  to  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy,  of  the 
31st  Oct.  last." 

Acting  Rear  Admiral  Bailey,  an  extract  from  whose  letter  is 
enclosed,  in  the  correspondence  transmitted  on  the  14th  ulto. ,  gave 
Her  Majesty's  Consul  at  Key  West  an  authenticated  copy  of  the 
law  of  the  United  States,  and  of  the  instructions  based  thereon, 


on  the  subject  of  papers  which  strictly  belong  to  the  captured 
vessels  and  the  mails. 

By  special  direction  of  the  President,  unusual  courtesy  and 
concession  were  made  to  neutrals  in  the  instructions  of  the  18th 
August  last  to  Naval  Officers,  who  themselves  were  restricted 
and  prohibited  from  examining  or  breaking  the  seals  of  the  mail 
bags,  parcels,  &c.  which  they  might  find  on  board  of  captured 
vessels,  under  any  pretext,  but  were  authorized  at  their  discre- 
tion to  deliver  them  to  the  Consul,  commanding  naval  officer,  or 
the  legation  of  the  foreign  government  to  be  opened,  upon  the 
understanding  that  whatever  is  contraband,  or  important  as 
evidence  concerning  the  character  of  a  captured  vessel,  will  be 
remitted  to  the  prize  court,  &c. 

On  the  31st  of  October  last,  I  had  the  honor  to  receive  from  you 
a  note  suggesting  the  expediency  of  instructing  naval  officers 
that,  in  case  of  capture  of  merchant  vessels  suspected  or  found 
to  be  vessels  of  insurgents,  or  contraband,  the  public  mails  of 
every  friendly  or  neutral  power,  duly  certified  or  authenticated 
as  such,  shall  not  be  searched  or  opened,  but  be  put  as  speedily 
as  may  be  convenient  on  the  way  to  their  designated  destination. 
As  I  did  not  concur  in  the  propriety  or  "expediency"  of  issuing 
instructions  so  manifestly  in  conflict  with  all  usage  and  practice, 
and  the  law  itself,  and  so  detrimental  to  the  legal  rights  of  cap- 
tors, who  would  thereby  be  frequently  deprived  of  the  best,  if  not 
the  only,  evidence  that  would  insure  condemnation  of  the  cap- 
tured vessel,  no  action  was  taken  on  the  suggestions  of  the  letter 
of  the  31st  October,  as  Lord  Lyons  seems  erroneously  to  have 

In  the  only  brief  conversation  that  I  ever  remember  to  have 
had  with  you,  I  expressed  my  opinion  that  we  had  in  the  instruc- 
tions of  the  18th  of  August  gone  to  the  utmost  justifiable  limit  on 
this  subject.  The  idea  that  our  Naval  officers  should  be  com- 
pelled to  forward  the  mails  found  on  board  the  vessels  of  the  insur- 
gents— that  foreign  officials  would  have  the  sanction  of  this  gov- 
ernment in  confiding  their  mails  to  blockade  runners  and  vessels 
contraband,  and  that  without  judicial  or  other  investigation,  the 
officers  of  our  service  should  hasten  such  mails,  without  examina- 
tion, to  their  destination,  was  so  repugnant  to  my  own  convic- 
tions that  I  came  to  the  conclusion  it  was  only  a  passing  sugges- 
tion, and  the  subject  was  therefore  dropped.  Until  the  receipt  of 


your  note  of  Saturday,  I  was  not  aware  that  Lord  Lyons  was 
cognizant  such  a  note  had  been  written. 

Acting  Rear  Admiral  Bailey  has  acted  strictly  in  accordance 
with  the  law  and  his  instructions  in  the  matter  of  the  Peterhoff  s 

The  dispatch  of  Lord  Lyons  is  herewith  returned. 

I  am,  respectfully, 

Your  Obd't  Serv't, 


Secty.  of  Navy. 
HON.  WM.  H.  SE-WAKD, 
Secty.  of  State. 

April  14,  Tuesday. 

•         •••••••••^ 

Little  of  interest  to-day  at  council. 

The  War  Department,  which  early  in  the  War  claimed 
that  the  armed  force  on  the  Western  rivers  should  be 
subject  to  military  control,  became  involved  in  difficulty. 
Naval  officers,  naval  guns,  naval  men,  and  naval  discipline 
were  wanted  and  so  far  as  could  be  done  were  given,  but 
Congress  merely  ordered  that  the  armed  vessels  should  be 
transferred  to  the  Navy.  This  law  had  given  offense  to 
the  War  Department,  and  when  the  transfer  was  made,  the 
"ram  fleet,"  as  it  was  called,  was  withheld.  This  was,  as  I 
said  to  Stanton,  in  disregard  of  the  law  and  would  be  likely 
to  lead  to  difficulty,  for,  while  there  might  be  cooperation, 
there  could  not  be  separate  commands  without  conflict. 

The  ram  fleet  was  commanded  by  the  family  of  Ellett, 
brave,  venturous,  intelligent  engineers,  not  always  discreet 
or  wise,  but  with  many  daring  and  excellent  qualities. 
They  had  under  them  a  set  of  courageous  and  picked  men, 
furnished  by  the  military,  styled  the  Marine  Brigade,  and 
did  some  dashing  service,  but  refused  to  come  under  naval 
orders,  or  to  recognize  the  Admiral  in  command  of  the  Mis- 
sissippi Squadron.  The  result  was,  as  I  anticipated  might 
be  the  case,  an  arrest  and  suspension  of  Brigadier-General 
H.  W.  Ellett  from  the  command  of  the  ram  fleet. 

1863]    THE  ELLETTS  AND  THE  RAM  FLEET    273 

Stanton  is  very  laudatory  of  the  Elletts,  and  violent  in 
his  denunciations  of  Porter,  whom  he  ridicules  as  a  "gas 
bag  and  fussy  fellow,  blowing  his  own  trumpet  and  steal- 
ing credit  which  belongs  to  others."  There  is  some  truth  in 
what  he  says  of  the  Elletts  and  also  of  Porter,  but  the  latter 
with  all  his  verbosity  has  courage  and  energy  as  well  as  the 

April  15,  Wednesday.  No  full  reports  yet  from  Du  Pont. 
Am  pained,  grieved,  distressed  by  what  I  hear;  and  that 
I  hear  from  him  so  little.  We  learn  that  after  all  our  outlay 
and  great  preparations,  giving  him  about  all  our  force  and 
a  large  portion  of  the  best  officers,  he  intends  making  no 
farther  effort,  but  will  abandon  the  plan  and  all  attempts 
to  take  it.  A  fight  of  thirty  minutes  and  the  loss  of  one 
man,  which  he  witnessed,  satisfies  the  Admiral. 

The  Ironsides,  the  flagship,  was  suspiciously  remote  from 
the  fight,  yet  sufficiently  near  to  convince  the  Admiral 
he  had  better  leave  the  harbor.  Down  to  the  day  of 
the  conflict  I  had  faith  in  him  and  his  ability,  though 
grieved  at  his  delays.  When  here  last  fall,  expressly  to  con- 
sult and  concert  measures  for  the  capture  of  Charleston,  he 
was  as  earnest  and  determined  as  any  of  us,  did  not  waver 
a  moment,  and  would  not  listen  to  a  suggestion  of  Dahlgren 
as  an  assistant. 

April  16,  Thursday.  Received  a  singular  letter  from 
Seward  respecting  the  mail  of  the  Peterhoff,  undertaking 
to  set  aside  law,  usage,  principle,  established  and  always 
recognized  rights,  under  the  pretense  that  it  will  not  do  to 
introduce  new  questions  on  the  belligerent  right  of  search. 
He  has,  inconsiderately  and  in  an  ostentatious  attempt  to 
put  off  upon  the  English  Legation  a  show  of  power  and  au- 
thority which  he  does  not  possess  and  cannot  exercise,  in- 
volved himself  in  difficulty,  conceded  away  the  rights  of  his 
country  without  authority,  without  law,  without  a  treaty, 
without  equivalent;  and  to  sustain  this  novel  and  extraor- 


dinary  proceeding  he  artfully  talks  about  new  questions  in 
the  belligerent  right  of  search.  The  President  has  been  be- 
guiled by  ex-parte  representations  and  misrepresentations 
to  indorse  "approved "  on  Se ward's  little  contrivance.  But 
this  question  cannot  be  so  disposed  of.  The  President  may 
be  induced  to  order  the  mail  to  be  given  up,  but  the  law 
is  higher  than  an  Executive  order,  and  the  judiciary  has 
a  duty  to  perform.  The  mail  is  in  the  custody  of  the  court. 

April  17,  Friday.  No  reports  from  Charleston.  Am  in 
hopes  that  side  issues  and  by-play  on  the  Mississippi  are 
about  over  and  that  there  will  be  some  concentrated  action. 
Porter  should  go  below  Vicksburg  and  not  remain  above, 
thereby  detaining  Farragut,  who  is  below,  from  great  and 
responsible  duties  at  New  Orleans  and  on  the  Gulf.  The 
weak  and  sensitive  feeling  of  being  outranked  and  made 
subordinate  in  command  should  never  influence  an  officer 
in  such  an  emergency.  Porter  has  great  vanity  and  great 
jealousy  but  knows  his  duty,  and  I  am  surprised  he  does 
not  perform  it.  Wrote  him  a  fortnight  since  a  letter  which 
he  cannot  misunderstand,  and  which  will  not,  I  hope, 
wound  his  pride. 

But  little  was  before  the  Cabinet,  which  of  late  can 
hardly  be  called  a  council.  Each  Department  conducts  and 
manages  its  own  affairs,  informing  the  President  to  the  ex- 
tent it  pleases.  Seward  encourages  this  state  of  things.  He 
has  less  active  duties  than  others,  and  watches  and  waits 
on  the  President  daily,  and  gathers  from  him  the  doings 
of  his  associates  and  often  influences  indirectly  and  not 
always  advantageously  their  measures  and  movements, 
while  he  communicates  very  little,  especially  of  that  which 
he  does  not  wish  them  to  know. 

Blah-  walked  over  with  me  from  the  White  House  to  the 
Navy  Department,  and  I  showed  him  the  correspondence 
which  had  taken  place  respecting  captured  mails.  Under- 
standing Seward  thoroughly,  as  he  does,  he  detected  the  sly 
management  by  which  Seward  first  got  himself  in  difficulty 

1863]  THE  PETERHOFF'S  MAILS  275 

and  is  now  striving  to  get  out  of  it.  My  course  he  pro- 
nounced correct,  and  he  declared  that  the  President  must 
not  be  entrapped  into  any  false  step  to  extricate  Seward, 
who,  he  says,  is  the  least  of  a  statesman  and  knows  less  of 
public  law  and  of  administrative  duties  than  any  man  who 
ever  held  a  seat  in  the  Cabinet.  This  is  a  strong  statement, 
but  not  so  overstated  as  would  be  generally  supposed.  I 
have  been  surprised  to  find  him  so  unpractical,  so  erratic, 
so  little  acquainted  with  the  books,  —  he  has  told  me  more 
than  once  that  he  never  opened  them,  that  he  was  too  old 
to  study.  He  has,  with  all  his  bustle  and  activity,  but  little 
application;  relies  on  Hunter  and  his  clerk,  Smith,  perhaps 
Gushing  also,  to  sustain  him  and  hunt  up  his  authorities; 
commits  himself,  as  in  the  case  of  the  mails,  without  know- 
ing what  he  is  about. 

April  18,  Saturday.  Went  to  the  President  and  read  to 
him  my  letter  of  this  date  to  Mr.  Seward,  on  the  subject  of 
the  Peterhoff  mail.  I  have  done  this  that  the  President  may 
have  both  sides  of  the  question,  and  understand  what  is 
being  done  with  his  "  approval,"  without  consultation  with 
me  and  the  members  of  the  Cabinet  in  council.  The  Secre- 
tary of  State,  for  reasons  best  known  to  himself,  if  he  has 
any  reason  for  his  action,  has  advised  with  no  one  in  a  novel 
and  extraordinary  proceeding  on  his  part,  where  he  has 
made  concessions  by  which  our  rights  and  interests  have 
been  given  up  and  the  law  disregarded.  When  confronted, 
he,  instead  of  entering  upon  investigation  himself  or  con- 
sulting with  others,  has  gone  privately  to  the  President, 
stated  his  own  case,  and  got  the  President  committed  to 
his  unauthorized  acts.  I  therefore  prepared  my  letter  of 
this  date,  and  before  sending  it  to  Mr.  Seward,  I  deemed  it 
best  that  the  President  should  know  its  contents.  He  was 
surprised  and  very  much  interested;  took  the  letter  and  re- 
read it;  said  the  subject  involved  questions  which  he  did 
not  understand,  that  his  object  was  to  "keep  the  peace," 
for  we  could  not  afford  to  take  upon  ourselves  a  war  with 


England  and  France,  which  was  threatened  if  we  stopped 
their  mails;  and  concluded  by  requesting  me  to  send  my 
letter  to  Seward,  who  would  bring  the  subject  to  his 
attention  for  further  action.  My  object  was  gained.  The 
President  has  ''approved,"  without  knowledge,  on  the 
representation  of  Seward. 

April  19,  Sunday.  Several  letters  from  Du  Pont  on 
unimportant  matters,  but  no  detailed  reports  of  the  fight 
from  himself  or  officers.  Advised  with  Fox  and  thought 
best  for  him  to  go  to  New  York  and  see  Admiral  Gregory 
and  Captain  Rowan  with  a  view  to  more  effective  action 
if  necessary.  Nothing  certain  when  we  shall  hear  from 
Du  Pont.  In  the  mean  tune  it  is  important  to  prepare  for 
an  emergency. 

April  20,  Monday.  Received  Admiral  Du  Pont's  detailed 
report  with  those  of  his  officers.  The  document  is  not  such 
as  I  should  have  expected  from  him  a  short  tune  ago,  but 
matters  of  late  prevent  me  from  feeling  any  real  disappoint- 
ment. Fox  went  last  night  to  New  York  in  anticipation  of 
such  a  report.  The  tone  and  views  of  the  sub-reports  have 
the  ring,  or  want  of  ring,  of  the  Admiral  in  command.  Dis- 
couragement when  there  should  be  encouragement.  A  pall 
is  thrown  over  all.  Nothing  has  been  done,  and  it  is  the 
recommendation  of  all,  from  the  Admiral  down,  that  no 
effort  be  made  to  do  anything.  [Du  Pont]  has  got  his  sub- 
ordinates to  sustain  him  in  a  proceeding  that  his  sense  of 
right  tells  him  is  wrong. 

I  am  by  no  means  confident  that  we  are  acting  wisely 
in  expending  so  much  strength  and  effort  on  Charleston, 
a  place  of  no  strategic  importance,  but  it  is  lamentable  to 
witness  the  tone,  language,  absence  of  vitality  and  vigor, 
and  want  of  zeal  among  so  many  of  the  best  officers  of  the 
service.  I  cannot  be  mistaken  as  to  the  source  and  cause. 
A  magnetic  power  in  the  head,  which  should  have  inspired 
and  stimulated  them,  is  wanting;  they  have  been  discour- 

1863]  DU  FONT'S  FAILURE  277 

aged  instead  of  being  encouraged,  depressed  not  strength- 

April  21,  Tuesday.  Have  another  dispatch  from  Du 
Pont  in  answer  to  one  I  sent  him  on  the  llth  enjoining 
upon  him  to  continue  to  menace  Charleston,  that  the  Rebel 
troops  on  that  station  might  be  detained  for  the  present  to 
defend  the  place.  In  some  respects  this  dispatch  is  not 
worthy  of  Du  Pont.  He  says  he  never  advised  the  attack 
and  complains  of  a  telegram  from  the  President  more  than 
of  the  dispatch  from  the  Department.  If  he  never  advised 
the  attack,  he  certainly  never  discouraged  it,  and,  until 
since  that  attack,  I  had  supposed  no  man  in  the  country 
was  more  earnest  on  the  subject  than  he.  How  have  I  been 
thus  mistaken?  It  has  been  his  great  study  for  many 
months,  the  subject  of  his  visit,  of  his  conversation,  his 
correspondence.  When  Du  Pont  was  here  last  fall,  Dahl- 
gren  sought,  as  a  special  favor,  the  privilege  of  taking  com- 
mand, under  Du  Pont,  of  the  attack  on  Charleston,  —  to 
lead  in  the  assault.  But  it  was  denied,  for  the  reason  that 
Du  Pont  claimed  the  right  to  perform  this  great  work  in 
which  the  whole  country  took  so  deep  an  interest.  His  cor- 
respondence since  has  been  of  this  tenor,  wanting  more 
ironclads  and  reinforcements.  Once  there  were  indications 
of  faltering  last  winter,  and  I  promptly  told  him  it  was  not 
required  of  him  to  go  forward  against  his  judgment.  No 
doubtful  expression  has  since  been  heard.  His  third  dis- 
patch since  the  battle  brings  me  the  first  intelligence  he  has 
thought  proper  to  communicate  of  an  adverse  character. 

Only  some  light  matters  came  before  the  Cabinet.  Chase 
and  Blair  were  absent.  The  President  requested  Seward 
and  myself  to  remain.  As  soon  as  the  others  left,  he  said 
his  object  was  to  get  the  right  of  the  question  in  relation  to 
the  seizure  of  foreign  mails.  There  had  evidently  been  an 
interview  between  him  and  Seward  since  I  read  my  letter 
to  him  on  Saturday,  and  he  had  also  seen  Seward 's  reply. 
But  he  was  not  satisfied.  The  subject  was  novel  to  him. 


Mr.  Seward  began  by  stating  some  of  the  embarrass- 
ments of  the  present  peculiar  contest  in  which  we  were 
engaged,  —  the  unfriendly  feeling  of  foreign  governments, 
the  difficulty  of  preventing  England  and  France  from  tak- 
ing part  with  the  Rebels.  He  dwelt  at  length  on  the  subject 
of  mail  communications  and  mails  generally,  the  changes 
which  had  taken  place  during  the  last  fifty  years;  spoke 
of  the  affair  of  the  Trent,  a  mail  packet,  of  the  necessity  of 
keeping  on  the  best  terms  we  could  with  England.  Said 
his  arrangement  with  Mr.  Stuart,  who  was  in  charge  of 
the  British  Legation,  had  ^een  made  with  the  approval 
of  the  President,  though  he  had  not  communicated  that 
fact  to  me,  etc.,  etc. 

I  stated  that  this  whole  subject  belonged  to  the  courts, 
which  had,  by  law,  the  possession  of  the  mail;  that  I  knew 
of  no  right  which  he  or  even  the  Executive  had  to  interfere; 
that  I  had  not  regarded  the  note  of  the  31st  of  October 
as  more  than  a  mere  suggestion,  without  examination  or 
consideration,  for  there  had  been  no  Cabinet  consultation; 
that  it  was  an  abandonment  of  our  rights  and  an  entire 
subversion  of  the  policy  of  our  own  and  of  all  other  gov- 
ernments, which  I  had  not  supposed  any  one  who  had 
looked  into  the  matter  would  seriously  attempt  to  set  aside 
without  consultation  with  the  proper  Department  and 
advisement,  indeed,  with  the  whole  Cabinet ;  that  had  there 
been  such  consultation  the  subject  would,  I  was  convinced, 
have  gone  no  farther,  for  it  was  in  conflict  with  our  stated 
law  and  the  law  of  nations;  that  this  arrangement,  as  the 
Secretary  of  State  called  it,  was  a  sort  of  post-treaty,  by 
which  our  rights  were  surrendered  without  an  equivalent, 
a  treaty  which  he  was  not  in  my  opinion  authorized  to 

Mr.  Seward  said  he  considered  the  arrangement  recipro- 
cal, and  if  it  was  not  expressed  in  words  or  by  interchange, 
it  was  to  be  inferred  to  be  the  policy  of  England,  for  she 
would  not  require  of  us  what  she  would  not  give. 

I  declined  to  discuss  the  question  of  what  might  be 

1863]  THE  PETERHOFF'S  MAILS  279 

inferred  would  be  the  future  policy  of  England  on  a  subject 
where  she  had  been  strenuous  beyond  any  other  govern- 
ment. I  would  not  trust  her  generosity  in  any  respect.  I 
had  no  faith  that  she  would  give  beyond  what  was  stipu- 
lated in  legible  characters,  nor  did  I  believe  she  would,  by 
any  arrangement  her  Charge  might  make,  consent  to  aban- 
don the  principle  recognized  among  nations  and  which  she 
had  always  maintained.  If  this  arrangement  or  treaty  was 
reciprocal,  it  should  be  so  stated,  recorded,  and  universally 
understood.  So  important  a  change  ought  not  and  could 
not  be  made  except  by  legislation  or  treaty;  and  if  by 
treaty,  the  Senate  must  confirm  it;  if  by  legislation,  the 
parliamentary  bodies  of  both  countries.  There  had  been 
no  such  legislation,  no  such  treaty,  and  I  could  not  admit 
that  any  one  Department,  or  the  President  even,  could 
assume  to  make  such  a  change. 

The  President  thought  that  perhaps  the  Executive  had 
some  rights  on  this  subject,  but  was  not  certain  what  they 
were,  what  the  practice  had  been,  what  was  the  law,  na- 
tional or  international.  The  Trent  case  he  did  not  consider 
analogous  in  several  respects.  I  had  said  in  reply  to  Seward 
that  the  Trent  was  not  a  blockade-runner,  but  a  regular 
mail  packet,  had  a  semi-official  character,  with  a  govern- 
ment officer  on  board  in  charge  of  the  mails.  The  President 
said  he  wished  to  know  the  usage,  —  whether  the  public 
official  seals  or  mail-bags  of  a  neutral  power  were  ever 
violated.  Seward  said  certainly  not.  I  maintained  that  the 
question  had  never  been  raised  in  regard  to  a  captured  legal 
prize  —  not  a  doubt  expressed  —  and  the  very  fact  that 
Stuart  had  applied  to  him  for  mail  exemption  was  evidence 
that  he  so  understood  the  subject.  Where  was  the  necessity 
of  this  arrangement,  or  treaty,  if  that  were  not  the  usage? 
The  case  was  plain.  Our  only  present  difficulty  grew  out  of 
the  unfortunate  letter  of  the  31st  of  October, — the  more  un- 
fortunate from  the  fact  that  it  had  been  communicated  to 
the  British  Government  as  the  policy  of  our  Government, 
while  never,  by  any  word  or  letter  have  they  ever  admitted 


it  was  their  policy.  It  is  not  the  policy  of  our  Government, 
nor  is  it  the  law  of  our  country.  Our  naval  commanders 
know  of  no  such  policy,  no  such  usage,  no  such  law;  they 
have  never  been  so  instructed,  nor  have  our  district  attor- 
neys. The  President,  although  he  had  affixed  his  name  to 
the  word  " approved"  in  Seward's  late  letter,  and  although 
he  neither  admitted  nor  controverted  the  statement  that 
the  letter  of  the  31st  of  October  was  with  his  knowledge 
and  approval,  was  a  good  deal "  obf usticated  "  in  regard  to 
the  merits  of  the  question,  and  the  proceedings  of  Seward, 
who  appeared  to  be  greatly  alarmed  lest  we  should  offend 
England,  but  was  nevertheless  unwilling  to  commit  himself 
without  farther  examination.  He  said,  after  frankly  de- 
claring his  ignorance  and  that  he  had  no  recollection  of  the 
question  until  recently  called  to  his  notice,  that  he  would 
address  us  interrogatories.  Mr.  Seward  declared,  under 
some  excitement  and  alarm,  there  was  not  time;  that  Lord 
Lyons  was  importunate  in  his  demands,  claiming  that  the 
arrangement  should  be  fulfilled  in  good  faith.  I  replied 
that  Lord  Lyons,  nor  the  British  Government,  had  no  claim 
whatever  except  the  concession  made  by  him  (Seward)  in 
his  letter  of  the  31st  of  October,  while  there  was  no  conces- 
sion or  equivalent  from  England. 

The  two  letters  of  Seward  and  myself  which  brought 
about  this  interview,  of  the  18th  and  20th  instant  respect- 
ively, are  as  follows:  — 


18  April,  1863. 


I  have  had  the  honor  to  receive  your  note  of  the  15th  inst. 
in  reference  to  the  mails  of  the  "Peterhoff"  which  are  in  posses- 
sion of  the  prize  court  in  New  York.  I  am  not  aware  that  this 
Department  has  raised  any  "new  questions  or  pretensions  under 
the  belligerent  right  of  search,"  in  the  case  of  the  mails  of  the 
"  Peterhoff. "  Had  there  been  ground  for  such  an  imputation,  it 
could  hardly,  on  an  occasion  to  which  so  much  importance  has 
been  given,  have  escaped  the  observation  of  Lord  Lyons.  He, 
however,  advances  no  such  charge,  directly  or  by  implication, 


and  founds  the  demand  made  by  him  exclusively  on  the  conces- 
sion which  he,  apparently  through  some  knowledge  of  the  details 
of  your  letter  to  me  of  the  31st  October,  had  been  erroneously  led 
to  believe  was  made  by  this  Government,  in  instructions  given  to 
the  commanders  of  its  vessels  of  war. 

The  true  question  in  the  present  case  is,  whether  the  adminis- 
tration of  the  law  shall  be  suffered  to  take  its  ordinary  course,  or 
whether  the  Court  established  to  administer  the  law,  and  which 
has  certainly  been  in  existence  long  enough  to  know  its  powers 
and  duties,  shall  be  arrested  in  the  discharge  of  its  functions  by 
an  order  of  the  Executive,  issued  on  the  demand  of  a  foreign  gov- 
ernment, which  exhibits  no  evidence,  and  in  fact  makes  no  charge 
that  law  or  usage  has  been  violated  on  our  part. 

If  the  "Peterhoff"  was  captured  and  sent  to  the  Prize  Court 
without  any  reasonable  grounds  for  such  a  proceeding,  then  un- 
doubtedly the  opening  of  the  mails,  if  it  takes  place,  may  have 
been  an  illegal  act,  —  but  in  my  judgment,  not  otherwise.  If  it 
is  to  be  assumed  that  the  capture  was  wrongful,  not  only  the 
mails  but  the  vessel  and  cargo  should  at  once  be  surrendered. 

It  may  be  an  "unfavorable  time  to  raise  new  questions  or  pre- 
tensions," but  it  is  certainly  no  time  to  renounce  any  right  or  to 
unsettle  any  long  and  well  established  principles  and  usage.  Such 
a  surrender  would  be  a  confession  of  weakness  which  even  if  it 
existed,  it  would  be  "inexpedient  and  injurious"  to  make  known 
to  our  enemies.  If  the  case  be  one  of  doubt,  it  will  be  time  enough 
to  yield  when  the  doubt  is  dispelled,  and  we  are  found  to  have 
been  in  the  wrong.  We  may  then  yield  and  make  amends. 

I  do  not  consider  it  necessary  to  discuss  the  question  of  genu- 
ine or  spurious  and  simulated  mails;  but  will  merely  suggest  that 
if  what  pretends  to  be  a  mail  is  to  be  considered,  in  all  cases, 
prima  fade  sacred,  and  exempt  from  examination,  it  will  here- 
after be  found  exceedingly  difficult,  in  practice,  to  distinguish 
the  spurious  from  the  genuine,  nor  indeed  would  there  be  any 
necessity  for  the  fabrication  of  a  spurious  mail. 

In  the  meantime  I  cannot  but  hold  that  the  Prize  Court  is  law- 
fully in  possession  of  the  mail  bag  in  question  and  that  the  Court 
itself  is  the  proper  authority  to  adjudge  and  determine  what  dis- 
position shall  be  made  of  it.  I  propose  to  avoid  all  new  questions 
by  leaving  the  whole  matter  to  this  ancient  method  of  adjust- 
ment, established  by  the  consent  of  nations,  and  it  was  in  order  to 
avoid  innovations,  as  well  as  to  maintain  our  national  rights  and 


the  legal  rights  of  the  captors,  that  the  suggestions  contained  in 
your  note  of  the  31st  October  were  not  adopted  by  this  Depart- 

I  am,  respectfully, 
Your  Obdt.  Serv't, 


HON.  WM.  H.  SEWARD,  Secty.  of  Navy. 

Secty.  of  State. 

DEP'T.  OP  STATE,  20th  April,  1863. 
HON.  G.  WELLES,  &c. 

SIR:  In  reply  to  your  note  of  the  18th  inst.  on  the  subject  of 
the  mails  of  the  "Peterhoff,"  it  seems  proper  for  me  to  say  that 
when  the  question  of  detaining  the  public  mails  found  on  board 
of  vessels  visited  and  searched  by  the  blockading  forces  of  the  U. 
States,  was  presented  to  this  Department  last  year,  I  took  the 
instructions  of  the  President  thereupon.  Not  only  the  note  which 
I  addressed  to  you  on  the  8th  day  of  August  last,  but  also  the  note 
which  I  addressed  to  you  on  the  31st  of  October  last,  concerning 
this  question,  was  written  with  the  approval  and  under  the  direc- 
tion of  the  President.  The  views  therein  expressed  were  then 
communicated  to  the  British  Government  by  authority  of  the 
President,  as  denning  the  course  of  proceedings  which  would  be 
pursued  when  such  cases  should  occur  thereafter.  On  receiving 
your  note  of  the  13th  inst.,  intimating  a  view  of  the  policy  to  be 
pursued  differing  from  what  had  thus  been  determined  by  the 
President  on  the  31st  of  October  last,  I  submitted  to  him  that 
note  together  with  all  the  previous  correspondence  bearing  upon 
the  subject,  together  with  the  act  of  Congress  to  which  you  have 
called  my  attention.  I  then  asked  his  instructions  in  the  case  of 
the  mails  of  the  Peterhoff.  The  note  which  I  addressed  to  you  on 
the  15th  was  the  result  of  these  instructions,  and  having  been 
read  and  approved  by  him,  it  was  transmitted  to  you  by  his  di- 
rection. I  was  also  directed  to  communicate  the  contents  thereof 
to  the  Dist.  Attorney  of  the  U.  S.  for  the  Southern  District  of 
New  York,  and  also  to  announce  to  Lord  Lyons,  for  the  informa- 
tion of  the  British  Government,  that  the  mails  of  the  "  Peterhoff  " 
would  be  forwarded  to  their  destination.  I  was  also  directed  by 
the  President  to  make  some  special  representations  to  the  British 
Government  on  the  general  subject  of  the  mails  of  neutrals,which 
are  now  in  preparation. 

I  need  hardly  say  that  no  part  of  my  note  of  the  15th  instant 

1863]          TRADE  ON  THE  RIO  GRANDE          283 

was  intended  or  was  understood  by  me  as  imputing  to  you  the 
having  raised  or  being  disposed  to  raise  new  questions.  What  was 
said  on  that  subject,  was  said  by  way  of  showing  that  a  course  of 
proceedings  different  from  what  I  was  recommending,  would  in- 
volve, on  the  part  of  this  Government,  the  raising  of  a  question 
which  had  been  waived  by  it  in  my  correspondence  with  the 
British  Government  in  October  last. 

I  have  the  honor  to  be  &c. 


April  22,  Wednesday.  Admiral  Bailey  writes  —  and  I 
have  similar  information  from  other  sources  —  that  an 
immense  trade  has  sprung  up  on  the  Rio  Grande;  that 
there  are  at  this  time  from  one  hundred  and  eighty  to  two 
hundred  vessels  off  the  mouth  of  that  river,  when  before 
the  War  there  were  but  six  to  eight  at  any  one  time.  Os- 
tensibly the  trade  is  with  the  little  city  of  Matamoras,  but 
it  is  notoriously  a  Rebel  traffic.  Goods  are  received  and 
cotton  exported  by  this  route  under  our  own  as  well  as  for- 
eign flags.  I  have  suggested  in  one  or  two  conversations 
with  Mr.  Seward  that  it  was  a  favorable  opportunity  to  es- 
tablish some  principle  of  international  law  relative  to  the 
rights  and  obligations  of  adjoining  countries  having  a  mu- 
tual highway,  as  the  United  States  and  Mexico  have  in  the 
Rio  Grande;  that  we  should  require  Mexico  to  prevent  this 
illicit  traffic,  or  that  they  should  permit  us  to  prevent  it; 
but  Seward  is  not  disposed  to  grapple  the  question,  is  afraid 
it  will  compromise  us  with  the  French,  says  Mexico  is  fee- 
ble, dislikes  to  make  exactions  of  her,  etc.,  etc.  I  yesterday 
wrote  the  Secretary  of  the  Treasury  and  the  Secretary  of 
War  in  regard  to  this  illicit  trade.  Our  own  countrymen 
should  not  have  ready  clearances  and  facilities  for  this  traf- 
fic, and  it  may  be  necessary  to  establish  frontier  military 
posts  to  prevent  it.  Perhaps  my  letters  may  cause  the  sub- 
ject to  be  taken  up  in  the  Cabinet,  and  lead  the  Govern- 
ment to  adopt  some  preventive  measure;  if  not,  the 
blockade  will  be  evaded  and  rendered  ineffectual.  The 
Peterhoff  with  its  mail  and  contraband  cargo  was  one  of 


a  regular  line  of  English  steamers,  established  to  evade  the 
blockade  by  way  of  Matamoras. 

Received  the  President's  letter  and  interrogatories  con- 
cerning the  mail.  The  evening  papers  state  that  the  mail  of 
the  Peterhoff  has  been  given  up  by  District  Attorney  Dela- 
field  Smith,  who  applied  to  the  court  under  direction  of  the 
Secretary  of  State,  "approved"  by  the  President.  It  is  a 
great  error,  which  has  its  origin  in  the  meddlesome  dis- 
position and  loose  and  inconsiderate  action  of  Mr.  Seward, 
who  has  meddlesomely  committed  himself.  Having  in  a 
weak  moment  conceded  away  an  incontestable  national 
right,  he  has  sought  to  extricate  himself,  not  by  retracing 
his  steps,  but  by  involving  the  President,  who  confides  in 
him  and  over  whom  he  has,  at  times,  an  unfortunate  influ- 
ence. The  interference  with  the  judiciary,  which  has  ad- 
miralty jurisdiction,  is  improper,  and  the  President  is  one 
of  the  very  last  men  who  would  himself  intrude  on  the  rights 
or  prerogatives  of  any  other  Department  of  the  Govern- 
ment, one  of  the  last  also  to  yield  a  national  right.  In  this 
instance,  and  often,  he  has  deferred  his  better  sense  and 
judgment  to  what  he  thinks  the  superior  knowledge  of  the 
Secretary  of  State,  who  has  had  greater  experience,  has  been 
Senator  and  Governor  of  the  great  State  of  New  York, 
and  is  a  lawyer  and  politician  of  repute  and  standing.  But 
while  Mr.  Seward  has  talents  and  genius,  he  has  not  the 
profound  knowledge  nor  the  solid  sense,  correct  views,  and 
unswerving  right  intentions  of  the  President,  who  would 
never  have  committed  the  egregious  indiscretion,  mistake, 
of  writing  such  a  letter,  and  making  such  a  concession  as 
the  letter  of  the  31st  of  October;  or,  if  he  could  have  com- 
mitted such  an  error,  or  serious  error  of  any  kind,  he  would 
not  have  hesitated  a  moment  to  retrace  his  steps  and  cor- 
rect it ;  but  that  is  the  difference  between  Abrabam  Lincoln 
and  William  H.  Seward. 

I  have  set  Watkins1  and  Eames2  to  ransack  the  books. 

1  A  clerk  in  the  Navy  Department. 

*  Charles  Eames,  a  well-known  admiralty  lawyer  of  Washington. 

1863]  THE  PETERHOFF'S  MAILS  285 

Upton1  must  help  them.  I  want  the  authorities  that  I  may 
respond  to  the  President.  Though  his  sympathies  are  en- 
listed for  Seward,  who  is  in  difficulty,  and  I  have  no  doubt 
he  will  strive  to  relieve  him  and  shield  the  State  Depart- 
ment, we  must,  however,  have  law,  usage,  right  respected 
and  maintained.  The  mail  of  the  Peterhoff  is  given  up, 
but  that  is  not  law,  and  the  law  must  be  sustained  if  the 
Secretary  of  State  is  humiliated. 

The  Philadelphians  are  fearful  the  acceptance  of  League 
Island  will  not  be  consummated,  and  have  written  me.  I 
have  replied  that  there  is  a  courtesy  and  respect  due  to 
Congress  which  I  cannot  disregard. 

April  23,  Thursday.  Favorable,  though  not  very  import- 
ant, news  from  lower  Virginia  and  North  Carolina. 

My  letter  of  the  2d  and  telegram  of  the  15th  to  Porter 
have  been  effective.  The  steamers  have  run  past  Vicks- 
burg,  and  I  hope  we  may  soon  have  something  favorable 
from  that  quarter. 

Senator  Sumner  called  this  P.M.  to  talk  over  the  matter 
of  the  Peterhoff  mail.  Says  he  has  been  examining  the  case, 
that  he  fully  indorses  my  views.  Seward,  he  avers,  knows 
nothing  of  international  law  and  is  wanting  in  common 
sense,  treats  grave  questions  lightly  and  without  compre- 
hending their  importance  and  bearings.  He  calls  my  at- 
tention to  the  opinion  of  Attorney-General  Wirt  as  to  the 
rights  of  the  judiciary. 

April  24,  Friday.  Little  of  importance  at  the  Cabinet- 
meeting.  Seward  left  early.  He  seemed  uneasy,  and  I 
thought  was  apprehensive  I  might  bring  up  the  subject  of 
the  Peterhoff  mails.  It  suits  him  better  to  have  interviews 
with  the  President  alone  than  with  a  full  Cabinet,  espe- 
cially on  points  where  he  knows  himself  wrong.  I  did  not 
feel  particularly  anxious  that  the  subject  should  be  intro- 

1  Francis  H.  Upton,  counsel  for  the  captors  of  the  Peterhoff  and  in 
other  prize  cases  during  the  War. 


duced  to-day,  for  I  am  not  fully  prepared  with  my  reply, 
though  busily  occupied  on  the  subject-matter,  giving  it 
every  moment  I  can  spare  from  pressing  current  business. 

April  27,  Monday.  Finished  and  gave  to  the  President 
my  letter  on  the  subject  of  mails  on  captured  vessels.  It  has 
occupied  almost  every  moment  of  my  time  for  a  week, 
aided  by  Eames,  Watkins,  and  Upton,  and  by  suggestions 
from  Sumner,  who  has  entered  earnestly  into  the  subject. 

The  President  was  alone  when  I  called  on  him  with  the 
document,  which  looked  formidable,  filling  thirty-one 
pages  of  foolscap.  He  was  pleased  and  interested,  not  at 
all  discouraged  by  my  paper;  said  he  should  read  every 
word  of  it,  that  he  wanted  to  understand  the  question,  etc. 
He  told  me  Seward  had  sent  in  his  answer  this  morning, 
but  it  was  in  some  respects  not  satisfactory,  particularly 
as  regarded  the  Adela.  He  had  sent  for  Hunter,  who, 
however,  did  not  understand  readily  the  case,  or  what  was 

April  28,  Tuesday.  Nothing  at  Cabinet,  Seward  and 
Chase  absent.  The  President  engaged  in  selecting  provost- 

Sumner  called  this  evening  at  the  Department.  Was 
much  discomfited  with  an  interview  which  he  had  last 
evening  with  the  President.  The  latter  was  just  filing  a 
paper  as  Sumner  went  in.  After  a  few  moments  Sumner 
took  two  slips  from  his  pocket,  —  one  cut  from  the  Boston 
Transcript,  the  other  from  the  Chicago  Tribune,  each  taking 
strong  ground  against  surrendering  the  Peterhoff  mail. 
The  President,  after  reading  them,  opened  the  paper  he  had 
just  filed  and  read  to  Sumner  his  letter  addressed  to  the 
Secretary  of  State  and  the  Secretary  of  the  Navy.  He  told 
Sumner  he  had  received  the  replies  and  just  concluded 
reading  mine.  After  some  comments  on  them  he  said  to 
Sumner,  "I  will  not  show  these  papers  to  you  now;  perhaps 
I  never  shall."  A  conversation  then  took  place  which 


1863]  THE  PETERHOFF'S  MAILS  287 

greatly  mortified  and  chagrined  Sumner,  who  declares  the 
President  is  very  ignorant  or  very  deceptive.  The  President, 
he  says,  is  horrified,  or  appeared  to  be,  with  the  idea  of 
a  war  with  England,  which  he  assumed  depended  on  this 
question.  He  was  confident  we  should  have  war  with  Eng- 
land if  we  presumed  to  open  their  mail  bags,  or  break  their 
seals  or  locks.  They  would  not  submit  to  it,  and  we  were 
in  no  condition  to  plunge  into  a  foreign  war  on  a  subject 
of  so  little  importance  in  comparison  with  the  terrible  con- 
sequences which  must  follow  our  act.  Of  this  idea  of  a' war 
with  England,  Sumner  could  not  dispossess  him  by  argu- 
ment, or  by  showing  its  absurdity.  Whether  it  was  real  or 
affected  ignorance,  Sumner  was  not  satisfied. 

I  have  no  doubts  of  the  President's  sincerity,  and  so  told 
Sumner.  But  he  has  been  imposed  upon,  humbugged,  by  a 
man  in  whom  he  confides.  His  confidence  has  been  abused ; 
he  does  not  —  frankly  confesses  he  does  not  —  compre- 
hend the  principles  involved  nor  the  question  itself.  Sew- 
ard  does  not  intend  he  shall  comprehend  it.  While  at- 
tempting to  look  into  it,  the  Secretary  of  State  is  daily,  and 
almost  hourly,  wailing  in  his  ears  the  calamities  of  a  war 
with  England  which  he  is  striving  to  prevent.  The  Presi- 
dent is  thus  led  away  from  the  real  question,  and  will  prob- 
ably decide  it,  not  on  its  merits,  but  on  this  false  issue, 
raised  by  the  man  who  is  the  author  of  the  difficulty. 

April  29,  Wednesday.  The  atmosphere  is  thick  with 
rumors  of  army  movements.  Hooker  is  reported  to  have 
crossed  the  river.  Not  unlikely  a  portion  of  his  force  has 
done  so,  and  all  may.  That  there  may  be  a  battle  immin- 
ent is  not  improbable.  I  shall  not  be  surprised,  however, 
if  only  smart  skirmishes  take  place. 

Admiral  Lee  writes  me  that  in  his  opinion  there  is  no 
such  force  in  Suffolk  as  Dix  and  others  represent.  General 
Dix,  like  most  of  our  generals,  cries  aloud  for  gunboats  and 
naval  protection,  but  is  not  inclined  to  be  grateful,  or  even 
just  to  his  defenders. 


April  30,  Thursday.  To-day  has  been  designated  for  a 
National  Fast.  I  listened  to  a  patriotic  Christian  discourse 
from  my  pastor,  Mr.  Pine. 

Had  a  long,  studied,  complaining  letter  from  Admiral 
Du  Pont,  of  some  twenty  pages,  in  explanation  and  refuta- 
tion of  a  letter  hi  the  Baltimore  American,  which  criticizes 
and  censures  his  conduct  at  Charleston.  The  dispatch  is 
no  credit  to  Du  Pont,  who  could  be  better  employed.  He  is 
evidently  thinking  much  more  of  Du  Pont  than  of  the  ser- 
vice or  the  country.  I  fear  he  can  be  no  longer  useful  in  his 
present  command,  and  am  mortified  and  vexed  that  I  did 
not  earlier  detect  his  vanity  and  weakness.  They  have  lost 
us  the  opportunity  to  take  Charleston,  which  a  man  of 
more  daring  energy  and  who  had  not  a  distinguished  name 
to  nurse  and  take  care  of  would  have  unproved.  All  Du 
Pont's  letters  since  the  8th  show  that  he  had  no  heart,  no 
confidence,  no  zeal  hi  his  work;  that  he  went  into  the  fight 
with  a  predetermined  conviction  it  would  not  be  a  success. 
He  is  prejudiced  against  the  monitor  class  of  vessels,  and 
would  attribute  his  failure  to  them,  but  it  is  evident  he  has 
no  taste  for  rough,  close  fighting. 

Senator  Stunner  called  on  me  this  P.M.  in  relation  to  the 
coast  defense  of  Massachusetts.  I  received  a  letter  from 
Governor  Andrew  this  A.M.  on  the  same  subject.  The 
President  had  also  been  to  see  me  hi  regard  to  it. 

After  disposing  of  that  question,  Sumner  related  an  inter- 
esting conversation  which  he  had  last  evening  with  Lord 
Lyons  at  Tassara's,  the  Spanish  Minister.  I  was  an  hour 
or  two  at  Tassara's  party,  hi  the  early  part  of  the  evening, 
and  observed  S.  and  Lord  L.  hi  earnest  conversation.  Sum- 
ner says  their  whole  talk  was  on  the  subject  of  the  mails 
on  captured  vessels.  He  opened  the  subject  by  regretting 
that  hi  the  peculiar  condition  of  our  affairs,  Lord  Lyons 
should  have  made  a  demand  that  could  not  be  yielded 
without  national  dishonor;  said  that  the  question  was  one 
of  judicature  rather  than  diplomacy.  Lord  Lyons  dis- 
avowed ever  having  made  a  demand;  said  he  was  cautious 


and  careful  in  all  his  transactions  with  Mr.  Seward,  that  he 
made  it  a  point  to  reduce  all  matters  with  Seward  of  a  pub- 
lic nature  to  writing,  that  he  had  done  so  hi  regard  to  the 
mail  of  the  Peterhoff,  and  studiously  avoided  any  demand. 
He  authorized  Sumner,  who  is  Chairman  of  Foreign  Rela- 
tions, to  see  all  his  letters  hi  relation  to  the  mails,  etc.,  etc. 
To-day  Sumner  saw  the  President  and  repeated  to  him 
this  conversation,  Lord  Lyons  having  authorized  him  to  do 
so.  The  President,  he  says,  seemed  astounded,  and  after 
some  general  conversation  on  the  subject,  said  in  his 
emphatic  way,  "I  shall  have  to  cut  this  knot." 


Conversation  with  Attorney-General  Bates  on  the  Captured  Mails  —  John 
Laird's  Statement  in  Parliament  —  Waiting  for  News  from  Hooker  — 
Rumors  of  the  Battle  of  Chancellorsville  —  Disappointment  at  the  News 
—  Stonewall  Jackson's  Death  —  Recall  of  Wilkes  from  the  West  India 
Squadron  —  Earl  Russell's  Speech  on  American  Affairs  —  Sumner's 
Talk  with  Seward  about  Mr.  Adams  and  the  Secretary  of  Legation  at 
London  —  Conversation  with  the  President  on  the  Subject  of  Cap- 
tured Mails  —  Du  Font's  Charges  against  Chief  Engineer  Stimers  — 
Du  Pont  before  Charleston  —  His  Shortcomings  and  the  Question  of 
superseding  him  —  Deplorable  Conditions  in  the  South  —  Foote  suc- 
ceeds Du  Pont  in  Command  of  the  South  Atlantic  Squadron  —  Dahlgren 
declines  to  be  Second  in  Command. 

May  1,  Friday.  After  Cabinet-meeting  walked  over  with 
Attorney-General  Bates  to  his  office.  Had  a  very  full  talk 
with  him  concerning  the  question  of  captured  mails,  —  the 
jurisdiction  of  the  courts,  the  law,  and  usage,  and  rights 
of  the  Government.  He  is  unqualifiedly  with  me  in  my 
views  and  principles,  —  the  law  and  our  rights.  He  dwelt 
with  some  feeling  on  the  courtesy  which  ought  to  exist  be- 
tween the  several  Departments  and  was  by  them  gener- 
ally observed.  Although  cautious  and  guarded  in  his  re- 
marks, he  did  not  conceal  his  dissatisfaction  with  the  con- 
duct of  the  Secretary  of  State  hi  writing  to  attorneys  and 
marshals,  and  assuming  to  instruct  and  direct  them  hi  their 
official  duties  which  were  assigned  to  and  required  by  law 
to  be  done  by  the  Attorney-General. 

We  are  getting  vague  rumors  of  army  operations,  but 
nothing  intelligible  or  reliable. 

May  2,  Saturday.  Thick  rumors  concerning  the  Army  of 
the  Potomac,  —  little,  however,  from  official  sources.  I 
abstain  from  going  to  the  War  Department  more  than  is 
necessary  or  consulting  operators  at  the  telegraph,  for 


there  is  a  hazy  uncertainty  there.  This  indefiniteness,  and 
the  manner  attending  it,  is  a  pretty  certain  indication  that 
the  information  received  is  not  particularly  gratifying. 
Whether  Hooker  refuses  to  communicate,  and  prevents 
others  from  communicating,  I  know  not.  Other  members 
of  the  Cabinet,  like  myself,  are,  I  find,  disinclined  to  visit 
the  War  Department  under  the  circumstances. 

A  very  singular  declaration  by  John  Laird,  Member  of 
Parliament  and  one  of  the  builders  of  the  pirate  Alabama, 
has  been  shown.  Laird  said  in  Parliament,  in  reply  to 
Thomas  Baring,  that  the  Navy  Department  had  applied 
to  him  to  build  vessels.  It  is  wholly  untrue,  a  sheer  fabrica- 
tion. But  John  Laird  writes  to  Howard  of  New  York,  that 
he  (Howard)  had  said  something  to  him  (Laird)  about 
building  vessels  for  the  Government.  Howard,  I  judge,  was 
Laird's  agent  or  broker  to  procure,  if  possible,  contracts 
for  him  or  his  firm,  but  did  [not]  succeed.  The  truth  is,  our 
own  shipbuilders,  in  consequence  of  the  suspension  of 
work  in  private  yards  early  in  the  war,  were  clamorous  for 
contracts,  and  the  competition  was  such  that  we  would 
have  had  terrible  indignation  upon  us  had  we  gone  abroad 
for  vessels,  which  I  never  thought  of  doing. 

May  4,  Monday.  Great  uneasiness  and  uncertainty 
prevail  in  regard  to  army  movements.  I  think  the  War 
Department  is  really  poorly  advised  of  operations.  I  could 
learn  nothing  from  them  yesterday  or  to-day.  Such  infor- 
mation as  I  have  is  picked  up  from  correspondents  and  news- 
gatherers,  and  from  naval  officers  who  arrive  from  below. 

I  this  P.M.  met  the  President  at  the  War  Department. 
He  said  he  had  a  feverish  anxiety  to  get  facts;  was  con- 
stantly up  and  down,  for  nothing  reliable  came  from  the 
front.  There  is  an  impression,  which  is  very  general,  that 
our  army  has  been  successful,  but  that  there  has  been  great 
slaughter  and  that  still  fiercer  and  more  terrible  fights  are 

I  am  not  satisfied.  If  we  have  success,  the  tidings  would 

292  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [MAY  4 

come  to  us  in  volumes.  We  may  not  be  beaten.  Stoneman1 
with  13,000  cavalry  and  six  days'  supply  has  cut  his  way 
into  the  enemy's  country,  but  we  know  not  his  fate,  farther 
than  we  hear  nothing  from  him  or  of  him.  If  overwhelmed, 
we  should  know  it  from  the  Rebels.  There  are  rumors 
that  the  Rebels  again  reoccupy  the  intrenchments  on  the 
heights  in  the  rear  of  Fredericksburg,  but  the  rumor  is 
traceable  to  no  reliable  source. 

May  5,  Tuesday.  But  little  of  importance  at  the  Cabinet. 
The  President  read  a  brief  telegram  which  he  got  last  even- 
ing from  General  Hooker,  to  whom,  getting  nothing  from 
the  War  Department,  he  had  applied  direct  to  ascertain 
whether  the  Rebels  were  in  possession  of  the  works  on  the 
heights  of  Fredericksburg.  Hooker  replied  he  believed  it 
was  true,  but  if  so  it  was  of  no  importance.  This  reply  com- 
municates nothing  of  operations,  but  the  tone  and  whole 
thing  —  even  its  brevity  —  inspire  right  feelings.  It  is 
strange,  however,  that  no  reliable  intelligence  reaches  us 
from  the  army  of  what  it  is  doing,  or  not  doing.  This  fact 
itself  forebodes  no  good. 

Sumner  came  in  this  afternoon  and  read  to  me  from  two 
or  three  documents  —  one  the  late  speech  of  the  Solicitor 
of  the  Treasury  in  the  British  Parliament  on  the  matter  of 
prize  and  prize  courts  —  which  are  particularly  favorable 
to  our  views  in  the  Peterhoff  case.  From  this  we  got  on  to 
the  absorbing  topic  of  the  army  under  Hooker.  Sumner 
is  hopeful,  and  if  he  did  not  inspire  me  with  his  confidence, 
I  was  made  glad  by  his  faith.  The  President  came  in  while 
we  were  discussing  the  subject,  and,  as  is  his  way,  at  once 
earnestly  participated.  His  suggestions  and  inferences 
struck  me  as  probable,  hopeful,  nothing  more.  Like  the 
rest  of  us,  he  wants  facts;  without  them  we  have  only  sur- 

1  General  George  Stoneman  was  conducting  an  extensive  cavalry 
operation  intended  to  cut  off  Lee's  army  after  its  expected  defeat.  The 
unlooked-for  discomfiture  of  the  Federal  forces  placed  Stoneman  in 
considerable  danger,  but  he  succeeded  in  rejoining  Hooker's  main  army  on 
May  1st. 

1863]  RUMORS  OF  DEFEAT  293 

mises  and  surmises  indicate  doubt,  uncertainty.  He  is  not 
informed  of  occurrences  as  he  should  be,  but  is  in  the  dark, 
with  no  official  data,  which  confirms  me  in  the  belief  that 
the  War  Department  is  in  ignorance,  for  they  would  not 
withhold  favorable  intelligence  from  him,  yet  it  is  strange, 
very  strange.  In  the  absence  of  news  the  President  strives 
to  feel  encouraged  and  to  inspire  others,  but  I  can  perceive 
he  has  doubts  and  misgivings,  though  he  does  not  express 
them.  Like  my  own,  perhaps,  his  fears  are  the  result 
of  absence  of  facts,  rather  than  from  any  information 

May  6,  Wednesday.  We  have  news,  via  Richmond,  that 
Stoneman  has  destroyed  bridges  and  torn  up  rails  on  the 
Richmond  road,  thus  cutting  off  communication  between 
that  city  and  the  Rebel  army.  Simultaneously  with  this 
intelligence,  there  is  a  rumor  that  Hooker  has  recrossed  the 
river  and  is  at  Falmouth.  I  went  to  the  War  Department 
about  noon  to  ascertain  the  facts,  but  Stanton  said  he  had 
no  such  intelligence  nor  did  he  believe  it.  I  told  him  I  had 
nothing  definite  or  very  authentic,  —  that  he  certainly 
ought  to  be  better  posted  than  I  could  be,  —  but  I  had  seen 
a  brief  telegram  from  young  Dahlgren,  who  is  on  Hooker's 
staff,  dated  this  A.M.,  "  Headquarters  near  Falmouth  — 
All  right."  This  to  me  was  pretty  significant  of  the  fact 
that  Hooker  and  his  army  had  recrossed.  Stanton  was  a 
little  disconcerted.  He  said  Hooker  had  as  yet  no  definite 
plan;  his  headquarters  are  not  far  from  Falmouth.  Of 
course  nothing  farther  was  to  be  said,  yet  I  was  by  no  means 
satisfied  with  his  remarks  or  manner. 

An  hour  later  Sumner  came  into  my  room,  and  raising 
both  hands  exclaimed,  "Lost,  lost,  all  is  lost!"  I  asked 
what  he  meant.  He  said  Hooker  and  his  army  had  been  de- 
feated and  driven  back  to  this  side  of  the  Rappahannock. 
Sumner  came  direct  from  the  President,  who,  he  said,  was 
extremely  dejected.  I  told  him  I  had  been  apprehensive 
that  disaster  had  occurred,  but  when  I  asked  under  what 

294  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES        [MAY  6 

circumstances'this  reverse  had  taken  place,  he  could  give 
me  no  particulars. 

I  went  soon  after  to  the  War  Department.  Seward  was 
sitting  with  Stanton,  as  when  I  left  him  two  or  three  hours 
before.*  I  asked  Stanton  if  he  knew  where  Hooker  was.  He 
answered,  curtly,  "No."  I  looked  at  him  sharply,  and  I 
have  no  doubt  with  incredulity,  for  he,  after  a  moment's 
pause,  said,  "  He  is  on  this  side  of  the  river,  but  I  know  not 
where."  "Well,"  said  I,  "he  is  near  his  old  quarters,  and 
I  wish  to  know  if  Stoneman  is  with  him,  or  if  he  or  you 
know  anything  of  that  force."  Stanton  said  he  had  no  in- 
formation in  regard  to  that  force,  and  it  was  one  of  the 
most  unpleasant  things  of  the  whole  affair  that  Hooker 
should  have  abandoned  Stoneman. 

Last  night  and  to-day  we  have  had  a  violent  rainstorm 
from  the  northeast.  Fox  and  Edgar,  my  son,  left  this  A.M. 
for  Falmouth.  The  President,  uneasy,  uncomfortable,  and 
dissatisfied  with  the  meagre  information  and  its  gloomy 
aspect,  went  himself  this  evening  to  the  army  with  Gen- 
eral Halleck. 

May  7,  Thursday.  Our  people,  though  shocked  and  very 
much  disappointed,  are  in  better  tone  and  temper  than  I 
feared  they  would  be.  The  press  had  wrought  the  public 
mind  to  high  expectation  by  predicting  certain  success, 
which  all  wished  to  believe.  I  have  not  been  confident, 
though  I  had  hopes.  Hooker  has  not  been  tried  in  so  high 
and  responsible  a  position.  He  is  gallant  and  efficient  as 
commander  of  a  division,  but  I  am  apprehensive  not  equal 
to  that  of  General-in-Chief.  I  have  not,  however,  sufficient 
data  for  a  correct  and  intelligent  opinion.  A  portion  of  his 
plan  seems  to  have  been  well  devised,  and  his  crossing  the 
river  well  executed.  It  is  not  clear  that  his  position  at 
Chancellorsville  was  well  selected,  and  he  seems  not  to  have 
been  prepared  for  Stonewall  Jackson's  favorite  plan  of  at- 
tack. Our  men  fought  well,  though  it  seems  not  one  half  of 
them  were  engaged.  I  do  not  learn  why  Stoneman  was  left, 

1863]       BATTLE  OF  CHANCELLORSVILLE        295 

or  why  Hooker  recrossed  the  river  without  hearing  from 
him,  or  why  he  recrossed  at  all. 

It  is  not  explained  why  Sedgwick  and  his  command  were 
left  single-handed  to  fight  against  greatly  superior  numbers 
—  the  whole  army  of  Lee  in  fact  —  on  Monday,  when 
Hooker  with  all  his  forces  was  unemployed  only  three  miles 
distant.  There  are,  indeed,  many  matters  which  require 

May  8,  Friday.  A  telegraph  dispatch  this  morning  from 
Admiral  Porter  states  he  has  possession  of  Grand  Gulf. 
The  news  was  highly  gratifying  to  the  President,  who  had 
not  heard  of  it  until  I  met  him  at  the  Cabinet-meeting. 

Several  of  our  navy  and  army  officers  arrived  this  day 
from  Richmond,  having  left  that  place  on  Tuesday  to  be 
exchanged.  They  all  say  that  Richmond  might  have  been 
captured  by  Stoneman's  cavalry,  or  by  a  single  regiment, 
the  city  had  been  so  thoroughly  drained  of  all  its  male  pop- 
ulation to  reinforce  Lee,  and  so  wholly  unprepared  were 
they  for  a  raid  that  but  little  resistance  could  have  been 
made.  Stoneman  and  his  force  have  done  gallant  service, 
but  we  regret  they  did  not  dash  into  Richmond  and  cap- 
ture Davis  and  the  Rebel  Administration. 

Commander  Drayton  came  to  see  me  to-day.  He  is  one 
of  Du  Font's  intimates,  a  man  of  excellent  sense  and  heart, 
but  is  impressed  with  Du  Font's  opinions  and  feelings. 
All  of  Du  Font's  set  —  those  whom  he  has  called  around 
him  —  are  schooled  and  trained,  and  have  become  his 
partisans,  defer  to  his  views,  and  adopt  his  sentiments. 
It  is  his  policy,  and  of  course  theirs,  to  decry  the  monitors 
as  if  that  would  justify  or  exonerate  Du  Pont  from  any 
remissness  or  error.  I  told  Drayton  it  was  not  necessary  to 
condemn  the  monitors  for  the  failure  to  capture  Charles- 
ton, nor  did  it  appear  to  me  wise  to  do  so,  or  to  make  any 
deficiencies  in  those  vessels  prominent  in  the  official  re- 
ports which  were  to  be  published.  It  seems  an  effort  to 
impute  blame  somewhere,  or  [as]  if  blame  existed  and  an 


excuse  or  justification  was  necessary,  of  which  the  public 
and  the  whole  world  should  be  at  once  informed.  If  the 
monitors  are  weak  in  any  part,  there  was  no  necessity  for 
us  to  proclaim  that  weakness  to  our  enemies ;  if  they  needed 
improvements,  the  Government  could  make  them.  Allud- 
ing to  Du  Font's  long  dispatch  refuting,  explaining,  and 
deprecating  the  criticism  in  a  Baltimore  paper,  I  told  him 
I  was  sorry  to  see  such  an  expenditure  of  time,  talent,  and 
paper  by  the  commander  of  the  Squadron  and  his  subordi- 
nates. Drayton  expressed  his  regret  at  the  over-sensitive- 
ness of  Du  Pont,  but  said  it  was  his  nature,  and  this  mor- 
bid infirmity  was  aggravated  by  his  long  continuance  on 
shipboard.  It  is  the  opinion  of  Drayton  that  Charleston 
cannot  be  taken  by  the  Navy  and  that  the  Navy  can  do 
but  little  towards  it.  He  says  the  monitors,  though  slow, 
would  have  passed  the  batteries  and  reached  the  wharves 
of  Charleston  but  for  submerged  obstructions. 

May  11,  Monday.  The  President  sent  a  note  to  my 
house  early  this  morning,  requesting  me  to  call  at  the 
Executive  Mansion  on  my  way  to  the  Department.  When 
there  he  took  from  a  drawer  two  dispatches  written  by 
the  Secretary  of  State  to  Lord  Lyons,  in  relation  to  prize 
captures.  As  they  had  reference  to  naval  matters,  he 
wished  my  views  in  regard  to  them  and  the  subject-matter 
generally.  I  told  him  these  dispatches  were  not  particu- 
larly objectionable,  but  that  Mr.  Seward  in  these  matters 
seemed  not  to  have  a  correct  apprehension  of  the  duties 
and  rights  of  the  Executive  and  other  Departments  of  the 
Government.  There  were,  however,  in  this  correspond- 
ence allusions  to  violations  of  international  law  and  of 
instructions  which  were  within  his  province,  and  which 
it  might  be  well  to  correct;  but  as  a  general  thing  it 
would  be  better  that  the  Secretary  of  State  and  the  Ex- 
ecutive should  not,  unless  necessary,  interfere  in  these 
matters,  but  leave  them  where  they  properly  and  legally 
belonged,  with  the  judiciary.  [I  said]  that  Lord  Lyons 

1863]        STONEWALL  JACKSON'S  DEATH         297 

would  present  these  demands  or  claims  as  long  as  the 
Executive  would  give  them  consideration,  —  acquiesced, 
responded,  and  assumed  to  grant  relief,  —  but  that  it  was 
wholly  improper,  and  would,  besides  being  irregular,  cause 
him  and  also  the  State  and  Navy  Departments  great 
labor  which  does  not  belong  to  either.  The  President  said 
he  could  see  I  was  right,  but  that  in  this  instance,  perhaps, 
it  would  be  best,  if  I  did  not  seriously  object,  that  these 
dispatches  should  go  on;  but  he  wished  me  to  see  them. 
When  I  got  to  the  Department,  I  found  a  letter  from 
Mr.  Seward,  inclosing  one  from  Lord  Lyons  stating  that 
complaint  had  been  made  to  his  Government  that  passen- 
gers on  the  Peterhoff  had  been  imprisoned  and  detained, 
and  were  entitled  to  damages.  As  the  opportunity  was 
a  good  one,  I  improved  it  to  communicate  to  him  in  writing, 
what  I  have  repeatedly  done  in  conversation,  that  in  the 
present  state  of  the  proceedings  there  should  be  no  inter- 
ference on  his  part,  that  these  are  matters  for  adjudica- 
tion by  the  courts  rather  than  for  diplomacy  or  Executive 
action,  and  until  the  judicial  power  is  exhausted,  it  is  not 
advisable  for  the  Departments  to  interfere,  etc.  The  letter 
was  not  finished  in  season  to  be  copied  to-day,  but  I  will 
get  it  to  him  to-morrow,  I  hope  in  season  for  him  to  read 
before  getting  off  his  dispatches. 

May  12,  Tuesday.  We  have  information  that  Stonewall 
Jackson,  one  of  the  best  generals  in  the  Rebel,  and,  in  some 
respects,  perhaps  in  either,  service,  is  dead.  One  cannot 
but  lament  the  death  of  such  a  man,  in  such  a  cause  too. 
He  was  fanatically  earnest,  and  a  Christian  but  bigoted 

A  Mr.  Prentiss  has  presented  a  long  document  to  the 
President  for  the  relief  of  certain  parties  who  owned  the 
John  Gilpin,  a  vessel  loaded  with  cotton,  and  captured  and 
condemned  as  good  prize.  There  has  been  a  good  deal  of 
outside  engineering  in  this  case.  Chase  thought  if  the 
parties  were  loyal  it  was  a  hard  case.  I  said  all  such  losses 

298  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [MAY  12 

were  hard,  and  asked  whether  it  was  hardest  for  the 
wealthy,  loyal  owners,  who  undertook  to  run  the  blockade 
with  their  cotton,  or  the  brave  and  loyal  sailors  who  made 
the  capture  and  were  by  law  entitled  to  the  avails,  to  be 
deprived.  I  requested  him  to  say  which  of  these  parties 
should  be  the  losers.  He  did  not  answer.  I  added  this  was 
another  of  those  cases  that  belonged  to  the  courts  exclus- 
ively, with  which  the  Executive  ought  not  to  interfere. 
All  finally  acquiesced  in  this  view. 

This  case  has  once  before  been  pressed  upon  the  Presi- 
dent. Senator  Foot  of  Vermont  appeared  with  Mr.  Prentiss, 
and  the  President  then  sent  for  me  to  ascertain  its  merits. 
I  believe  I  fully  satisfied  him  at  that  time,  but  his  sym- 
pathies have  again  been  appealed  to  by  one  side. 

Mr.  Seward  came  to  my  house  last  evening  and  read 
a  confidential  dispatch  from  Earl  Russell  to  Lord  Lyons, 
relative  to  threatened  difficulties  with  England  and  the 
unpleasant  condition  of  affairs  between  the  two  countries. 
He  asked  if  anything  could  be  done  with  Wilkes,  whom  he 
has  hitherto  favored,  but  against  whom  the  Englishmen, 
without  any  sufficient  cause,  are  highly  incensed.  I  told 
him  he  might  be  transferred  to  the  Pacific,  which  is  as 
honorable  but  a  less  active  command;  that  he  had  favored 
Wilkes,  who  was  not  one  of  the  most  comfortable  officers 
for  the  Navy  Department.  I  was  free  to  say,  however, 
I  had  seen  nothing  in  his  conduct  thus  far,  in  his  present 
command,  towards  the  English  deserving  of  censure,  and 
that  the  irritation  and  prejudice  against  him  were  un- 
worthy, yet  under  the  peculiar  condition  of  things,  it  would 
perhaps  be  well  to  make  this  concession.  I  read  to  him  an 
extract  from  a  confidential  letter  of  J.  M.  Forbes,  now  in 
England,  a  most  earnest  and  sincere  Union  man,  urging 
that  W.  should  be  withdrawn,  and  quoting  the  private 
remarks  of  Mr.  Cobden  to  that  effect.  I  had  read  the  same 
extract  to  the  President  last  Friday  evening,  Mr.  Sumner 
being  present.  He  (Sumner)  remarked  it  was  singular, 
but  that  he  had  called  on  the  President  to  read  to  him 

1863]  RECALL  OF  WILKES  299 

a  letter  which  he  had  just  received  from  the  Duke  of 
Argyle,  in  which  he  advised  that  very  change.  This  letter 
Sumner  has  since  read  to  me.  It  is  replete  with  good 
sense  and  good  feeling. 

I  have  to-day  taken  preliminary  steps  to  transfer  Wilkes 
and  to  give  Bell  command  in  the  West  Indies.  It  will  not 
surprise  me  if  this,  besides  angering  Wilkes,  gives  public 
discontent.  His  strange  course  in  taking  Slidell  and  Mason 
from  the  Trent  was  popular,  and  is  remembered  with 
gratitude  by  the  people,  who  are  not  aware  his  work  was 
but  half  done,  and  that,  by  not  bringing  in  the  Trent  as 
prize,  he  put  himself  and  the  country  in  the  wrong.  Sew- 
ard  at  first  approved  the  course  of  Wilkes  in  capturing 
Slidell  and  Mason,  and  added  to  my  embarrassment  in  so 
disposing  of  the  question  as  not  to  create  discontent  by 
rebuking  Wilkes  for  what  the  country  approved.  But 
when,  under  British  menace,  Seward  changed  his  position, 
he  took  my  position,  and  the  country  gave  him  great  credit 
for  what  was  really  my  act  and  the  undoubted  law  of  the 
case.  My  letter  congratulating  Wilkes  on  the  capture  of 
the  Rebel  enemies  was  particularly  guarded  and  warned 
him  and  naval  officers  against  a  similar  offense.  The  letter 
was  acceptable  to  all  parties,  —  the  Administration,  the 
country,  and  even  Wilkes  was  contented. 

It  is  best  under  the  circumstances  that  Wilkes  should 
be  withdrawn  from  the  West  Indies,  where  he  was  sent 
by  Seward's  special  request,  unless,  as  he  says,  we  are  ready 
for  a  war  with  England.  I  sometimes  think  that  is  not  the 
worst  alternative,  she  behaves  so  badly. 

May  13,  Wednesday.  The  last  arrival  from  England  brings 
Earl  Russell's  speech  on  American  affairs.  Its  tone  and 
views  are  less  offensive  than  some  things  we  have  had,  and 
manifest  a  dawning  realization  of  what  must  follow  if 
England  persists  in  her  unfriendly  policy.  In  his  speech, 
Earl  R.,  in  some  remarks  relative  to  the  opinions  of  the 
law  officers  of  the  Crown  on  the  subject  of  mails  captured 

300  DIARY.  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [MAY  13 

on  blockade-runners,  adroitly  quotes  the  letter  of  Seward 
to  me  on  the  31st  of  October,  and  announces  that  to  be 
the  policy  of  the  United  States  Government,  and  the  regu- 
lation which  governs  our  naval  officers.  It  is  not  the  Eng- 
lish policy,  nor  a  regulation  which  they  adopt,  reciprocate, 
or  respect,  but  the  tame,  flat  concession  of  the  Secretary  of 
State,  made  without  authority  or  law.  The  statement 
of  Earl  R.  is  not  correct.  No  such  orders  as  he  represents 
have  issued  from  the  Navy  Department.  Not  a  naval 
officer  or  district  attorney  has  ever  been  instructed  to 
surrender  the  mails  as  stated,  nor  is  there  a  court  in  the 
United  States  which  would  regard  such  instructions,  if 
given,  as  good  law.  It  is  nothing  more  nor  less  than  an 
attempted  abandonment,  an  ignominious  surrender,  of  our 
undoubted  legal  rights  by  a  Secretary  of  State  who  knew 
not  what  he  was  about.  The  President  may,  under  the 
influence  of  Mr.  Seward,  commit  himself  to  this  inconsider- 
ate and  illegal  proceeding  and  direct  such  instructions  to 
be  issued,  but  if  so,  the  act  shall  be  his,  not  mine,  and  he 
will  find  it  an  unhappy  error. 

But  Seward  has  been  complimented  in  Parliament  for 
giving  away  to  our  worst  enemy  his  country's  rights,  — 
for  an  impertinent  and  improper  intermeddling,  or  at- 
tempt to  intermeddle,  with  and  direct  the  action  of  Jan- 
other  Department,  and  the  incense  which  he  has  received 
will  tickle  his  vanity. 

Sumner  tells  me  of  a  queer  interview  he  had  with  Sew- 
ard. The  first  part  of  the  conversation  was  harmonious 
and  related  chiefly  to  the  shrewd  and  cautious  policy  and 
management  of  the  British  Ministry,  who  carefully  re- 
ferred all  complex  questions  to  the  law  officers  of  Her 
Majesty's  Government.  It  might  have  been  a  hintfto 
Seward  to  be  more  prudent  and  considerate,  and  to  take 
legal  advice  instead  of  pushing  on,  wordy  and  slovenly, 
as  is  sometimes  done.  Allusion  was  made  to  Mr.  Adams 
and  his  unfortunate  letter  to  Zerman.1  Our  Minister, 

1  Zerman  was  a  Mexican  in  partnership  with  Howell,  an  American. 

1863]  MR.  ADAMS  AS  MINISTER  301 

Mr.  Adams,  was  spoken  of  as  too  reserved  and  retiring 
for  his  own  and  the  general  good.  Sumner  said,  in  justi- 
fication and  by  way  of  excuse  for  him,  that  it  would  be 
pleasanter  and  happier  for  him  if  he  had  a  Secretary  of 
Legation  whose  deportment,  manner,  and  social  position 
were  different,  —  if  he  were  more  affable  and  courteous, 
in  short  more  of  a  gentleman,  —  for  he  could  in  that  case 
make  up  for  some  of  Mr.  A.'s  deficiencies.  At  this  point 
Seward  flew  into  a  passion,  and,  in  a  high  key,  told  Sum- 
ner he  knew  nothing  of  political  (meaning  party)  claims 
and  services,  and  accused  him  of  a  design  to  cut  the  throat 
of  Charley  Wilson,  the  Secretary  of  Legation  at  London. 
Sumner  wholly  disclaimed  any  such  design  or  any  per- 
sonal knowledge  of  the  man,  but  said  he  had  been  in- 
formed, and  had  no  doubt  of  the  fact,  that  it  was  the  daily 
practice  of  Wilson  to  go  to  Morley's,  seat  himself  in  a 
conspicuous  place,  throw  his  legs  upon  the  table,  and,  in 
coarse  language,  abuse  England  and  the  English.  What- 
ever might  be  our  grievances  and  wrong,  this,  Sumner 
thought,  was  not  a  happy  method  of  correcting  them,  nor 
would  such  conduct  on  the  part  of  the  second  officer  of  the 
Legation  bring  about  kinder  feelings  or  a  better  state  of 
things,  whereas  a  true  gentleman  could  by  suavity  and 
dignity  in  such  a  position  win  respect,  strengthen  his  prin- 
cipal, and  benefit  the  country.  These  remarks  only  made 
Seward  more  violent,  and  louder  in  his  declarations  that 
Charley  Wilson  was  a  clever  fellow  and  should  be  sus- 

I  read  to  Attorney-General  Bates  the  letters  and  papers 
in  relation  to  mails  on  captured  vessels,  of  which  he  had 
some  previous  knowledge.  He  complimented  my  letters 
and  argument,  and  said  my  position  was  impregnable  and 
the  Secretary  of  State  wholly  and  utterly  wrong. 

The  firm  fitted  out  a  vessel  to  trade  with  Matamoras.  Mr.  Adams,"being 
satisfied  of  their  good  faith,  gave  them  assurances  of  immunity  from 
interference  on  the  part  of  the  United  States  Navy,  and  this  discrimination 
against  Englishmen  engaged  ostensibly  in  the  same  trade,  was  sharply 
criticized  in  the  British  Parliament. 

302  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [MAY  is 

Mr.  Seward  sent  me  to-day  a  letter  from  Lord  Lyons 
concerning  the  Mont  Blanc  and  the  Dolphin,  and  wished 
me  to  name  some  person  at  Key  West  to  arbitrate  on  the 
former  case,  the  vessel  having  been  restored  and  the  par- 
ties wanting  damages.  I  named  Admiral  Bailey  for  this 
naval  duty,  but  took  occasion  to  reiterate  views  I  have 
heretofore  expressed,  and  especially  in  my  letter  yester- 
day that  these  matters  belonged  to  the  courts  and  not  to 
the  Departments. 

Hear  of  no  new  move  by  Hooker.  I  am  apprehensive 
our  loss  in  killed  and  prisoners  was  much  greater  in  the  late 
battle  than  has  been  supposed. 

May  14,  Thursday.  I  wrote,  two  or  three  weeks  since, 
a  letter  to  Admiral  Du  Pont  of  affairs  at  Charleston  and 
his  reports,  but  have  delayed  sending  it,  partly  in  hopes 
I  should  have  something  suggestive  and  encouraging, 
partly  because  Fox  requested  me  to  wait,  in  the  belief 
we  should  have  additional  information.  Du  Pont  is  mor- 
bidly sensitive,  and  to  vindicate  himself  wants  to  publish 
every  defect  and  weakness  of  the  ironclads  and  to  dis- 
parage them,  regardless  of  its  effect  in  inspiring  the  Rebels 
to  resist  them,  and  impairing  the  confidence  of  our  own 
men  in  their  invulnerability.  I  have  tried  to  be  kind  and 
frank  in  my  letter,  but  shall  very  likely  give  offense. 

Had  a  little  conversation  to-day  with  Chase  and  Bates 
on  two  or  three  matters,  but  the  principal  subject  was 
Earl  Russell's  speech. 

May  15,  Friday.  The  President  called  on  me  this  morn- 
ing with  the  basis  of  a  dispatch  which  Lord  Lyons  pro- 
posed to  send  home.  He  had  submitted  it  to  Mr.  Seward, 
who  handed  it  to  the  President,  and  he  brought  it  to  me. 
The  President  read  it  to  me,  and  when  he  concluded,  I 
remarked  the  whole  question  of  the  mails  belonged  pro- 
perly to  the  courts  and  I  thought  unless  we  proposed  some 
new  treaty  arrangement  it  would  be  best  the  subject 

1863]  THE  CAPTURED  MAILS  303 

should  continue  with  the  courts  as  law  and  usage  directed. 
"But,"  he  inquired,  "have  the  courts  ever  opened  the 
mails  of  a  neutral  government?"  I  replied,  "Always, 
when  the  captured  vessels  on  which  mails  were  found  were 
considered  good  prize."  "Why,  then,"  said  he,  "do  you 
not  furnish  me  with  the  fact?  It  is  what  I  want,  but  you 
furnish  me  with  no  report  that  any  neutral  has  ever  been 
searched."  I  said  I  was  not  aware  that  the  right  had  ever 
been  questioned.  The  courts  made  no  reports  to  me 
whether  they  opened  or  did  not  open  mail.  The  courts 
are  independent  of  the  Departments,  to  which  they  are 
not  amenable.  In  the  mails  was  often  the  best  and  only 
evidence  that  could  insure  condemnation.  [I  said]  that 
I  should  as  soon  have  expected  an  inquiry  whether  evi- 
dence was  taken,  witnesses  sworn,  and  the  cargoes  exam- 
ined as  whether  mails  were  examined.  "But  if  mails  ever 
are  examined,"  said  he,  "the  fact  must  be  known  and  re- 
corded. What  vessels,"  he  asked,  "have  we  captured, 
where  we  have  examined  the  mails?"  "All,  doubtless, 
that  have  had  mails  on  board,"  I  replied.  Probably  most 
of  them  were  not  intrusted  with  mails.  "What,"  asked  he, 
"was  the  first  vessel  taken?  "  "  I  do  not  recollect  the  name, 
a  small  blockade-runner,  I  think;  I  presume  she  had  no 
mail.  If  she  had,  I  have  no  doubt  the  court  searched  it 
and  examined  all  letters  and  papers."  He  was  extremely 
anxious  to  ascertain  if  I  recollected,  or  knew  that  any  cap- 
tured mail  had  been  searched.  I  told  him  I  remembered 
no  specific  mention,  doubted  if  the  courts  ever  reported 
to  the  Navy  Department.  Foreign  governments,  knowing 
of  the  blockade,  would  not  be  likely  to  make  up  mails  for 
the  ports  blockaded.  The  Peterhoff  had  a  mail  ostensibly 
for  Matamoras,  which  was  her  destination,  but  with  a 
cargo  and  mails  which  we  knew  were  intended  for  the 
Rebels,  though  the  proof  might  be  difficult  since  the  mail 
had  been  given  up.  I  sent  for  Watkins,  who  has  charge  of 
prize  matters,  to  know  if  there  was  any  record  or  mention 
of  mails  in  any  of  the  papers  sent  the  Navy  Department, 

304  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [MAY  15 

but  he  could  not  call  to  mind  anything  conclusive.  Some 
mention  was  made  of  mails  or  dispatches  in  the  mail  on 
board  the  Bermuda,  which  we  captured,  but  it  was  inci- 
dental. Perhaps  the  facts  might  be  got  from  the  district 
attorneys,  though  he  thought,  as  I  did,  that  but  few  regu- 
lar mails  were  given  to  blockade-runners.  The  President 
said  he  would  frame  a  letter  to  the  district  attorneys,  and 
in  the  afternoon  he  brought  in  a  form  to  be  sent  to  the 
attorneys  in  Philadelphia,  New  York,  and  Boston. 

Read  Chase  the  principal  points  in  the  Peterhoff  case. 
He  approved  of  my  views,  concurred  in  them  fully,  and 
said  there  was  no  getting  around  them. 

May  16,  Saturday.  Saw  Seward  this  morning  respecting 
Wilkes.  After  talking  over  the  subject,  he  said  he  cared 
nothing  about  Wilkes,  that  if  he  was  removed  he  would  be 
made  a  martyr,  and  both  he  (S.)  and  myself  would  be 
blamed  and  abused  by  the  people,  who  knew  not  the  cause 
that  influenced  and  governed  us.  He  then  for  the  first 
time  alluded  to  the  removal  of  Butler,  which  he  said  was 
a  necessity  to  appease  France.  Nevertheless  France  was 
not  satisfied,  yet  Butler's  removal  had  occasioned  great 
discontent  and  called  down  much  censure.  If  I  could  stand 
the  recall  of  Wilkes,  he  thought  he  could.  I  answered  him 
that  any  abuse  of  me  in  the  discharge  of  my  duty  and  when 
I  knew  I  was  right  would  never  influence  my  course.  In 
this  case  I  could  better  stand  his  recall  than  the  responsi- 
bility of  sending  him  into  the  Pacific,  where  he  would  have 
great  power  and  be  the  representative  of  the  Government; 
for  he  is  erratic,  impulsive,  opinionated,  somewhat  arbi- 
trary towards  his  subordinates,  and  is  always  disinclined 
to  obey  orders  which  he  receives  if  they  do  not  comport 
with  his  own  notions.  His  special  mission,  in  his  present 
command,  had  been  to  capture  the  Alabama.  In  this  he 
had  totally  failed,  while  zealous  to  catch  blockade-runners 
and  get  prize  money.  Had  he  not  been  in  the  West  Indies, 
we  might  have  captured  her,  but  he  had  seized  the  Vander- 

1863]  COBDEN  AND  BRIGHT  305 

bilt,  which  had  specific  orders  and  destination  and  gone 
off  with  her  prize-hunting,  thereby  defeating  our  plans. 
Seward  wished  me  to  detach  him  because  he  had  not  taken 
the  Alabama  and  give  that  as  the  reason.  I  care  to  assign 
no  reasons,  —  none  but  the  true  ones,  and  it  is  not 
politic  to  state  them. 

When  I  was  about  leaving,  Seward  asked  as  a  favor  that 
I  would  address  him  a  proposition  that  the  matter  of  the 
Mont  Blanc  should  be  left  to  Admiral  Bailey  alone.  The 
whole  pecuniary  interest  involved  did  not,  he  said,  exceed 
six  or  eight  hundred  dollars,  and  it  would  greatly  relieve 
him  at  a  pinch,  if  I  would  do  him  this  favor,  and  harm  no 
one,  for  the  vessel  had  been  seized  sleeping  at  anchor 
within  a  mile  of  the  Cays,  and  was  retained  by  the  court. 
I  asked  what  he  had  to  do  with  it  anyway.  He  gave  me 
no  satisfactory  answer,  but  went  into  the  trouble  he  had 
in  keeping  the  Englishmen  quiet  and  his  present  difficul- 
ties. All  of  which,  I  take  it,  means  he  has  loosely  commit- 
ted himself,  meddled  with  what  was  none  of  his  business, 
made  inconsiderate  promises  to  Lord  Lyons,  and  wishes 
me,  who  have  had  nothing  to  do  with  it,  but  have  objected 
to  the  whole  proceeding,  to  now  propose  that  Admiral 
Bailey  shall  be  sole  referee.  This  will  enable  him  to  cover 
up  his  own  error  and  leave  it  to  be  inferred  that  I  have 
prompted  it,  as  B.  is  a  naval  officer. 

May  18,  Monday.  Sumner  called  this  evening  and  read 
to  me  a  letter  he  had  received  from  Mr.  Cobden  and  also 
one  from  Mr.  Bright,  —  both  in  good  tone  and  of  right 
feeling.  These  two  men  are  statesmen  and  patriots  in 
the  true  sense  of  the  word,  such  as  do  honor  to  England 
and  give  vigor  to  the  Government.  They  and  Sumner 
have  done  much  to  preserve  the  peace  of  the  two  coun- 

Senator  Doolittle  came  to  see  me  to-day.  Has  faith,  he 
says,  but  fears  that  General  Hooker  has  no  religious  faith, 
laments  the  infirmities  of  that  officer,  and  attributes  our 

306  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [MAY  is 

late  misfortune  to  the  want  of  godliness  in  the  commanding 

May  19,  Tuesday.  The  case  of  Vallandigham,  recently 
arrested  by  General  Burnside,  tried  by  court  martial,  con- 
victed of  something,  and  sentenced  to  Fort  Warren,  was 
before  the  Cabinet.  It  was  an  error  on  the  part  of  Burn- 
side.  All  regretted  the  arrest,  but,  having  been  made, 
every  one  wished  he  had  been  sent  over  the  lines  to  the 
Rebels  with  whom  he  sympathizes.  Until  the  subject  is 
legitimately  before  us,  and  there  is  a  necessity  to  act, 
there  is  no  disposition  to  meddle  with  the  case. 

The  New  York  Tribune  of  to-day  has  a  communication 
on  the  Peterhoff  mail  question.  It  is  neither  so  good  nor 
so  bad  as  it  might  have  been.  Am  sorry  to  see  it  just  at 
this  tune,  and  uncertain  as  to  the  author.  Faxon  names 
one  of  the  correspondents  of  the  Tribune,  but  while  he  may 
have  forwarded  the  article  he  could  not  have  written  it. 

Governor  Sprague  and  Miss  Kate  Chase  called  this 
evening.  I  have  been  skeptical  as  to  a  match,  but  this 
means  something.  She  is  beautiful,  or,  more  properly  per- 
haps, interesting  and  impressive.  He  is  rich  and  holds  the 
position  of  Senator.  Few  young  men  have  such  advan- 
tages as  he,  and  Miss  Kate  has  talents  and  ambition  suf- 
ficient for  both. 

I  wrote  and  sent  to  Senator  Sumner  a  denial  of  John 
Laird's  statement  in  the  British  House  of  Commons. 
When  he  asserted  that  the  Secretary  of  the  American 
Navy,  or  the  agent  of  the  Secretary,  applied  to  him  to 
build  vessels,  or  a  vessel,  he  asserted  what  is  not  true, 
what  he  knows  to  be  untrue.  He  is,  in  my  opinion,  a 
mercenary  hypocrite  without  principle  or  honesty,  as  his 
words  and  works  both  show. 

May  20,  Wednesday.  Admiral  Lee  has  been  here  for  two 
or  three  days  consulting  in  regard  to  Wilmington.  The 
blockade  of  Cape  Fear  is  difficult  and  gives  infinite  trou- 

1863]  DU   PONT  AND   STIMERS  307 

ble,  but  the  War  Department  has  manifested  no  desire 
to  relieve  us  and  prevent  that  means  of  Rebel  communica- 
tion. To-day  we  had  a  long  conference.  Lee  has  seen  Gen- 
eral Totten,  and  the  conclusion  is  that  the  army  must 
capture  the  place,  assisted  by  the  Navy,  which  will  cover 
the  landing.  The  practice  of  relying  upon  the  Navy  to  do 
the  principal  fighting  when  forts  or  batteries  are  to  be 
taken  has  had  a  bad  effect  in  some  respects  and  is  vitiat- 
ing the  army. 

Admiral  Du  Pont  sends  forward  charges  against  Chief 
Engineer  Stimers,  who,  on  his  passage  from  Charleston  to 
New  York  after  the  late  demonstration,  expressed  an 
opinion  that  Sumter  might  have  been  passed  or  taken. 
Du  Pont  requested  Stimers  to  be  sent  to  Port  Royal  for 
trial.  Every  officer  under  Du  Pont  has  expressed  a  dif- 
ferent opinion  from  Stimers  and  they  would  constitute  the 
court.  It  is  a  strange  request,  and  it  would  be  quite  as 
strange  were  I  to  comply  with  it.  I  would  not  trust 
Stimers,  or  any  one  whom  Du  Pont  wished  to  make  a  vic- 
tim, in  his  power.  If  not  a  little  deranged,  D.  is  a  shrewd 
and  selfish  man.  I  think  he  is  morbidly  diseased.  Dray- 
ton  expresses  this  opinion.  His  conduct  and  influence 
have  been  unfortunate  in  many  respects  on  his  subordi- 
nates. Instead  of  sending  Stimers  to  Port  Royal  to  be  sac- 
rificed, I  will  order  a  court_of  inquiry  at  New  York,  where 
the  facts  may  be  elicited  without  prejudice  or  partiality. 
The  alleged  offense  hardly  justifies  an  inquiry  in  form,  but 
nothing  less  will  satisfy  Du  Pont,  who  wants  a  victim. 
More  than  this,  he  wants  to  lay  his  failure  at  Charleston 
on  the  ironclads,  and  with  such  a  court  as  he  would  organ- 
ize, and  such  witnesses  as  he  has  already  trained,  he  would 
procure  both  Stimers  and  vessels  to  be  condemned.  It 
would  be  best  for  the  ends  of  truth  and  justice  to  have  an 
inquiry  away  from  all  partisanship,  and  from  all  unfair 
influences  and  management. 

May  21,  Thursday.    Had  an  early  call  from  the  Pre- 

308  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [MAY  21 

sident,  who  brought  a  communication  from  Tassara  to 
Seward,  complaining  of  violation  of  neutral  rights  by  a 
small  pilot-boat,  having  a  gun  mounted  amidships  and 
believed  to  be  an  American  vessel,  which  was  annoying 
Spanish  and  other  neutral  vessels  off  the  coast  of  Cuba. 
The  President  expressed  doubts  whether  it  was  one  of  our 
vessels,  but  I  told  him  I  was  inclined  to  believe  it  was, 
and  that  I  had  last  week  written  Mr.  Seward  concerning 
the  same  craft  in  answer  to  Lord  Lyons,  who  complained 
of  outrage  on  the  British  schooner  Dream,  but  I  had  also 
written  Admiral  Bailey  on  the  subject.  I  read  my  letter 
to  the  President.  He  spoke  of  an  unpleasant  rumor  con- 
cerning Grant,  but  on  canvassing  the  subject  we  con- 
cluded it  must  be  groundless,  originating  probably  in  the 
fact  that  he  does  not  retain  but  has  evacuated  Jackson, 
after  destroying  the  enemy's  stores. 

It  is  pretty  evident  that  Senator  John  P.  Hale,  Chair- 
man of  the  Naval  Committee  of  the  Senate,  is  occupying 
his  time  in  the  vacation  in  preparing  for  an  attack  on  the 
Navy  Department.  He  has  a  scheme  for  a  tract  of  land 
with  many  angles,  belonging  to  a  friend,  which  land  he 
has  procured  from  Congress  authority  for  the  Secretary 
to  purchase,  but  the  Secretary  does  not  want  the  land 
in  that  shape.  It  is  a  "job,"  and  the  object  of  this  special 
legislative  permission  to  buy,  palpable.  Hale  called  on 
me,  and  has  written  me,  and  I  am  given  to  understand, 
if  I  do  not  enter  into  his  scheme,  —  make  this  purchase, 
—  I  am  to  encounter  continued  and  persistent  opposition 
from  him. 

Hale  has  also  sent  me  a  letter  of  eight  closely  written 
pages,  full  of  disinterested,  patriotic,  and  devoted  loyalty, 
protesting  against  my  detailing  Commodore  Van  Brunt 
to  be  one  of  a  board  on  a  requisition  from  the  War  Depart- 
ment for  a  naval  officer.  Van  Brunt  has  committed  no 
wrong,  is  accused  of  none,  but  Hale  does  n't  like  him. 
I  replied  in  half  a  page.  I  will  not  waste  time  on  a  man 
like  Hale. 

1863]      DU  PONT  BEFORE   CHARLESTON        309 

May  22,  Friday.  Information  is  received  that  Grant  has 
beaten  Pemberton  after  a  hard  fight  of  nine  hours.  It  is 
said  to  have  taken  place  on  the  15th  inst. 

Had  an  interview  with  Admiral  Lardner,  who  goes  out 
to  take  charge  of  the  West  India  Squadron.  He  is  prudent, 
but,  I  fear,  not  so  efficient  as  the  duty  assigned  him  re- 
quires. Wilkes  has  accomplished  but  little,  has  interfered 
with  and  defeated  some  Navy  plans,  but  has  not  committed 
the  indiscretions  towards  neutrals  which  I  feared  he  would, 
and  of  which  he  is  charged. 

May  23,  Saturday.  Met  the  President,  Stanton,  and 
Halleck  at  the  War  Department.  Fox  was  with  me. 
Neither  Du  Pont  nor  General  Hunter  has  answered  the 
President's  dispatch  to  them  a  month  since.  Halleck  does 
not  favor  an  attack  on  Charleston  unless  by  the  Navy.  The 
army  will  second,  so  far  as  it  can.  Fox,  who  commanded 
the  first  military  expedition  to  Sumter,  is  for  a  renewed 
attack,  and  wants  the  Navy  to  take  the  brunt.  Stanton 
wants  the  matter  prosecuted.  I  have  very  little  confidence 
in  success  under  the  present  admiral.  It  is  evident  that  Du 
Pont  is  against  doing  anything,  —  that  he  is  demoralizing 
others,  and  doing  no  good  in  that  direction.  If  anything  is 
to  be  done,  we  must  have  a  new  commander.  Du  Pont 
has  talents  and  capability,  but  we  are  to  have  the  benefit 
of  neither  at  Charleston.  The  old  army  infirmity  of  this 
war,  dilatory  action,  affects  Du  Pont.  Commendation  and 
encouragement,  instead  of  stimulating  him,  have  raised 
the  mountain  of  difficulty  higher  daily.  He  is  nursing 
Du  Pont,  whose  fame  he  fears  may  suffer,  and  has  sought 
sympathy  by  imparting  his  fears  and  doubts  to  his  sub- 
ordinates, until  all  are  impressed  with  his  apprehensions. 
The  capture  of  Charleston  by  such  a  chief  is  an  impos- 
sibility, whatever  may  be  accomplished  by  another.  This 
being  the  case,  I  have  doubts  of  renewing  the  attack 
immediately,  notwithstanding  the  zeal  of  Stanton  and 
Fox.  I  certainly  would  not  without  some  change  of  officers. 

310  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [MAY  23 

Having  no  faith,  the  commander  can  accomplish  no  work. 
In  the  struggle  of  war,  there  must  sometimes  be  risks  to 
accomplish  results,  but  it  is  clear  we  can  expect  no  great 
risks  from  Du  Pont  at  Charleston.  The  difficulties  increase 
daily  [as]  his  imagination  dwells  on  the  subject.  Under  any 
circumstances  we  shall  be  likely  to  have  trouble  with  him. 
He  has  remarkable  address,  is  courtly,  the  head  of  a  formid- 
able clique,  the  most  formidable  in  the  Navy,  loves  intrigue, 
is  Jesuitical,  and  I  have  reason  to  believe  is  not  always 
frank  and  sincere.  It  was  finally  concluded  to  delay  pro- 
ceedings until  the  arrival  of  General  Gillmore,  who  should 
be  put  in  possession  of  our  views. 

Sumner  brought  me  this  P.M.  a  report  in  manuscript  of 
the  case  of  the  Peterhoff  mail.  I  have  read  it  and  notice 
that  the  attorney,  Delafield  Smith,  takes  the  opportunity 
to  say,  I  doubt  not  at  whose  suggestion,  that  there  is  no 
report  that  the  public  mails  have  ever  been  opened  and 
examined.  He  does  not  say  there  is  any  report  they  were 
not,  or  that  there  is  any  report  whatever  on  the  subject. 
All  letters  and  papers  deemed  necessary  are  always  ex- 
amined. Upton  well  said  in  reply  to  Smith  that  the  ques- 
tion had  never  been  raised.  Much  time  was  spent  in  arguing 
this  point  respecting  the  mails.  It  was  reported  to  Seward, 
and  that  point  was  seized  upon,  and  the  question  raised, 
which  led  the  President  to  call  on  me  for  a  record  of  a  case 
where  public  mails  had  been  searched.  Seward's  man, 
Delafield  Smith,  having  learned  through  Archibald,  the 
British  Consul,  that  the  Secretary  of  State  had  given  up 
our  undoubted  right  to  search  the  mails,  set  up  the  petti- 
fogging pretense  that  there  was  no  report  that  captured 
mails  ever  had  been  examined,  which  Judge  Betts  did  not 
regard,  and  Upton  correctly  said  the  point  had  never  been 
raised.  The  court  never  asked  permission  of  the  Executive 
to  try  a  prize  case;  there  is  no  report  that  they  ever  asked 
or  did  not  ask;  the  right  was  no  more  questioned  than  the 
right  to  search  the  mails. 

1863]  DU  FONT'S   SHORTCOMINGS  311 

May  24,  Sunday.  We  have  had  gratifying  intelligence 
from  the  Southwest  for  several  days  past,  particularly  in 
the  vicinity  of  Vicksburg.  It  is  pretty  certain  that  Grant 
will  capture  the  place,  and  it  is  hoped  Pemberton's  army 
also.  There  is  a  rumor  that  the  stars  and  stripes  wave 
over  Vicksburg,  but  the  telegraph-wires  are  broken  and 
communication  interrupted. 

May  25,  Monday.  Received  a  long  dispatch  from  Ad- 
miral Porter  at  Haines  Bluff,  Yazoo  River,  giving  details 
of  successful  fights  and  operations  for  several  preceding 
days  in  that  vicinity. 

Am  anxious  in  relation  to  the  South  Atlantic  Squadron 
and  feel  daily  the  necessity  of  selecting  a  new  commander. 
Du  Pont  is  determined  Charleston  shall  not  be  captured 
by  the  Navy,  and  that  the  Navy  shall  not  attempt  it; 
thinks  it  dangerous  for  the  vessels  to  remain  in  Charleston 
Harbor,  and  prefers  to  occupy  his  palace  ship,  the  Wabash, 
at  Port  Royal  to  roughing  it  in  a  smaller  vessel  off  the  port. 
His  prize  money  would  doubtless  be  greater  without  any 
risk.  All  officers  under  him  are  becoming  affected  by  his 
feelings,  adopt  his  tone,  think  inactivity  best,  —  that  the 
ironclads  are  mere  batteries,  not  naval  vessels,  and  that 
outside  blockade  is  the  true  and  only  policy.  Du  Pont 
feels  that  he  is  strong  in  the  Navy,  strong  in  Congress,  and 
strong  in  the  country,  and  not  without  reason.  There  is 
not  a  more  accomplished  or  shrewder  gentleman  in  the 
service.  Since  Barren  and  others  left,  no  officer  has  gath- 
ered a  formidable  clique  in  the  Navy.  He  has  studied  with 
some  effect  to  create  one  for  himself,  and  has  in  his  per- 
sonal interest  a  number  of  excellent  officers  who  I  had 
hoped  would  not  be  inveigled.  Good  officers  have  warned 
me  against  him  as  a  shrewd  intriguer,  but  I  have  hoped  to 
get  along  with  him,  for  I  valued  his  general  intelligence, 
critical  abilities,  and  advice.  But  I  perceive  that  in  all 
things  he  never  forgets  Du  Pont.  His  success  at  Port 
Royal  has  made  him  feel  that  he  is  indispensable  to  the 

312  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [MAY  25 

service.  The  modern  changes  in  naval  warfare  and  in  naval 
vessels  are  repugnant  to  him;  and  to  the  turret  vessels  he 
has  a  declared  aversion.  He  has  been  active  in  schemes  to 
retire  officers;  he  is  now  at  work  to  retire  ironclads  and 
impair  confidence  in  them.  As  yet  he  professes  respect  and 
high  regard  for  me  personally,  but  he  is  not  an  admirer  of 
the  President,  and  has  got  greatly  out  with  Fox,  who  has 
been  his  too  partial  friend.  An  attack  is,  however,  to  be 
made  on  the  Department  by  opposing  its  policy  and  con- 
demning its  vessels.  This  will  raise  a  party  to  attack  and 
a  party  to  defend.  The  monitors  are  to  be  pronounced  fail- 
ures, and  the  Department,  which  introduced,  adopted,  and 
patronized  them,  is  to  be  held  responsible,  and  not  Du 
Pont,  for  the  abortive  attempt  to  reach  Charleston.  Dray- 
ton,  who  is  his  best  friend,  says  to  me  in  confidence  that 
Du  Pont  has  been  too  long  confined  on  shipboard,  that  his 
system,  mentally  and  physically,  is  affected,  and  I  have  no 
doubt  thinks,  but  does  not  say,  he  ought  to  be  relieved  for 
his  own  good  as  well  as  that  of  the  service.  Du  Pont  is 
proud  and  will  not  willingly  relinquish  his  command,  al- 
though he  has  in  a  half-defiant  way  said  if  his  course  was 
not  approved  I  must  find  another. 

I  look  upon  it,  however,  as  a  fixed  fact  that  he  will  leave 
that  squadron,  but  he  is  a  favorite  and  I  am  at  a  loss  as  to 
his  successor.  Farragut,  if  not  employed  elsewhere,  would 
be  the  man,  and  the  country  would  accept  the  change  with 
favor.  The  age  and  standing  of  D.  D.  Porter  would  be 
deemed  objectionable  by  many,  yet  he  has  some  good  points 
for  that  duty.  Foote  would  be  a  good  man  for  the  place  in 
many  respects,  but  he  is  somewhat  overshadowed  by  Du 
Pont,  with  whom  he  has  been  associated  and  to  whom  he 
greatly  defers.  Dahlgren  earnestly  wants  the  position,  and 
is  the  choice  of  the  President,  but  there  would  be  general 
discontent  were  he  selected.  Older  officers  who  have  had 
vastly  greater  sea  service  would  feel  aggrieved  at  the  selec- 
tion of  Dahlgren  and  find  ready  sympathizers  among  the 
juniors.  I  have  thought  of  Admiral  Gregory,  whom  I  was 

1863]  A  FUGITIVE   SLAVE   CASE  313 

originally  inclined  to  designate  as  commander  of  the  Gulf 
Blockading  Squadron  at  the  beginning  of  the  war,  but  was 
overpersuaded  by  Paulding  to  take  Mervine.  A  mistake 
but  a  lesson.  It  taught  me  not  to  yield  my  deliberate  con- 
victions hi  appointments  and  matters  of  this  kind  to  the 
mere  advice  and  opinion  of  another  without  a  reason.  Both 
Fox  and  Foote  indorse  Gregory.  His  age  is  against  him  for 
such  active  service,  and  would  give  the  partisans  of  Du 
Pont  opportunity  to  cavil. 

May  26,  Tuesday.  Much  of  the  tune  at  the  Cabinet- 
meeting  was  consumed  in  endeavoring  to  make  it  appear 
that  one  Cuniston,  tried  and  condemned  as  a  spy,  was  not 
exactly  a  spy,  and  that  he  might  be  let  off.  I  did  not  parti- 
cipate in  the  discussion.  It  appeared  to  me,  from  the  state- 
ment on  all  hands  and  from  the  finding  of  the  court,  that 
he  was  clearly  and  beyond  question  a  spy,  and  I  should 
have  said  so,  had  my  opinion  been  asked,  but  I  did  not  care 
to  volunteer,  unsolicited  and  without  a  thorough  knowledge 
of  all  the  facts,  to  argue  away  the  life  of  a  fellow  being. 

There  was  a  sharp  controversy  between  Chase  and  Blair 
on  the  subject  of  the  Fugitive  Slave  Law,  as  attempted  to 
be  executed  on  one  Hall  here  in  the  district.  Both  were 
earnest,  Blair  for  executing  the  law,  Chase  for  permitting 
the  man  to  enter  the  service  of  the  United  States  instead  of 
being  remanded  into  slavery.  The  President  said  this  was 
one  of  those  questions  that  always  embarrassed  him.  It 
reminded  him  of  a  man  in  Illinois  who  was  in  debt  and 
terribly  annoyed  by  a  pressing  creditor,  until  finally  the 
debtor  assumed  to  be  crazy  whenever  the  creditor  broached 
the  subject.  "I,"  said  the  President,  "have  on  more  than 
one  occasion,  hi  this  room,  when  beset  by  extremists  on 
this  question,  been  compelled  to  appear  to  be  very  mad.  I 
think,"  he  continued,  "none  of  you  will  ever  dispose  of  this 
subject  without  getting  mad." 

I  am  by  no  means  certain  that  it  is  wise  or  best  to 
commence  immediate  operations  upon  Charleston.  It  is 

314  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [MAY  26 

a  much  more  difficult  task  now  than  it  was  before  the  late 
undertaking.  Our  own  men  have  less  confidence,  while  our 
opponents  have  much  more.  The  place  has  no  strategic  im- 
portance, yet  there  is  not  another  place  our  anxious  coun- 
trymen would  so  rejoice  to  see  taken  as  this  original  seat  of 
the  great  wickedness  that  has  befallen  our  country.  The 
moral  effect  of  its  capture  would  be  great. 

May  27,  Wednesday.  No  decisive  news  from  Vicksburg. 
The  public  mind  is  uneasy  at  the  delay,  yet  I  am  glad  to 
see  blame  attaches  to  no  one  because  the  place  was  not 
taken  at  once.  There  have  been  strange  evidences  of  an 
unreasonable  people  on  many  occasions  during  the  War. 
Had  Halleck  shown  half  the  earnestness  and  ability  of  Far- 
ragut,  we  should  have  had  Vicksburg  in  our  possession  a 
year  ago. 

Admiral  Foote  handed  me  a  letter  from  Thomas  Turner, 
in  command  of  the  Ironsides  off  Charleston.  Turner  anti- 
cipates the  withdrawal  of  Du  Pont  from  the  command,  and 
thinks  Foote  or  Dahlgren  will  succeed  him.  Is  willing  to 
continue  under  Foote,  but  not  under  D.,  who  is  his  junior 
and  has  been  promoted  for  his  scientific  attainments,  and 
not  for  nautical  experience  or  ability.  These  views  are  nat- 
ural and  proper  enough  to  an  old  naval  and  social  compan- 
ion. But  he  proceeds  to  comment  on  the  ironclads;  speaks 
of  the  "  miserable  monitors,"  though  he  admits  they  are  ad- 
mirably adapted  for  harbor  defense;  is  astonished  the  De- 
partment should  build  so  many;  says  it  is  to  fill  the  pockets 
of  the  speculators.  These  are  Du  Font's  tactics.  If  true, 
the  Secretary  is  a  knave,  or  a  blockhead  the  tool  of  knaves, 
and  so  of  others  connected  with  the  Department.  But  the 
fact  is,  Tom  Turner  is  a  simple  dupe,  and  merely  echoes 
the  insinuations  of  another,  who  moulds  him  at  pleasure 
and  is  demoralizing  that  entire  command. 

Had  some  talk  with  Admiral  Foote  respecting  Charles- 
ton. He  believes  the  place  may  be  taken,  but  does  not 
express  himself  with  confidence.  Has  great  respect  for  Du 


Pont,  who,  I  fear,  will  exercise  a  bad  influence  upon  him, 
should  he  be  given  the  command.  Admiral  Gregory  is  too 
old  and  has  some  ailments.  I  have  great  faith  in  the  old 
man,  but  the  country  would  not  forgive  me  the  experiment, 
were  he  selected  and  to  fail.  There  would  be  bitter  oppo- 
sition to  Dahlgren  from  some  good  officers  as  well  as  the 
Tom  Turners,  were  he  given  the  squadron.  Could  he  and 
Foote  act  together,  it  would  be  the  best  arrangement  I 
could  make. 

May  28,  Thursday.  I  this  morning  got  hold  of  the  pam- 
phlet of  Sir  Vernon  Harcourt,  "  Historicus, "  and  am  de- 
lighted to  find  a  coincidence  of  views  between  him  and  my- 
self on  the  subject  of  mails  captured  on  vessels  running  the 
blockade,  or  carrying  contraband.  He  warns  his  country- 
men that  "the  danger  is  not  that  Americans  will  concede  too 
little  but  that  Great  Britain  may  accept  too  much."  This  is 
a  mortifying,  humiliating  fact,  the  more  so  from  its  truth. 
Mr.  Seward  is  not  aware  of  what  he  is  doing,  and  the  in- 
justice and  dishonor  he  is  inflicting  on  his  country  by  his 
concession.  It  is  lamentable  that  the  President  is  misled 
in  these  matters,  for  Mr.  Seward  is  tampering  and  trifling 
with  national  rights.  I  have  no  doubt  he  acted  inconsider- 
ately and  ignorantly  of  any  wrong  in  the  first  instance 
when  he  took  upon  himself  to  make  these  extraordinary 
and  disgraceful  concessions,  but,  having  become  involved 
in  error,  he  has  studied,  not  to  enlighten  himself  and  serve 
the  country,  but  to  impose  upon  and  mislead  the  President 
in  order  to  extricate  himself. 

Dahlgren  to-day  broached  the  subject  of  operations 
against  Charleston.  He  speaks  of  it  earnestly  and  energet- 
ically. Were  it  not  so  that  his  assignment  to  that  com- 
mand would  cause  dissatisfaction,  I  would,  as  the  Presi- 
dent strongly  favors  him,  let  him  show  his  ability  as  an  offi- 
cer in  his  legitimate  professional  duty.  He  would  enter 
upon  the  work  intelligently  and  with  a  determination  to  be 
successful.  Whether  he  has  the  skill,  power,  and  ability  of 

316  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [MAY  28 

a  first-rate  naval  commander  is  yet  to  be  tested.  He  has 
the  zeal,  pride,  and  ambition,  but  there  are  other  qualities 
in  which  he  may  be  deficient. 

Brown  of  the  wrecked  Indianola  and  Fontaine  of  the 
burnt  Mississippi,  each  called  on  me  to-day.  They  were 
both  captured  last  February,  have  been  exchanged,  and 
arrived  to-day  from  Richmond.  Their  accounts  corre- 
spond with  each  other  and  with  what  we  have  previously 
heard  in  regard  to  the  deplorable  state  of  things  in  the 
Rebel  region.  Poor  beef  three  times  a  week  and  corn  bread 
daily  were  dealt  to  them.  The  white  male  population  was 
all  away.  The  railroads  are  in  a  wretched  condition,  the 
running-stock  worse  than  the  roads. 

May  29,  Friday.  We  have  accounts  of  farther  and  exten- 
sive depredations  by  the  Alabama.  These  depredations 
were  near  the  Line,  where  the  Department,  in  anticipa- 
tion of  her  appearance,  had  ordered  the  Vanderbilt.  She 
was  specially  ordered  to  Fernando  de  Noronha,  whither 
the  Alabama  was  expected  to  go,  —  where  she  did  go,  and 
where  she  would  have  been  captured,  had  instructions  been 
obeyed,  and  not  interfered  with.  But  Admiral  Wilkes, 
having  fallen  in  with  that  vessel  and  finding  her  a  commo- 
dious ship  with  extensive  and  comfortable  accommoda- 
tions, deliberately  annexed  her  to  his  squadron  and  de- 
tained her  in  the  West  Indies  as  his  flagship,  hunting 
prizes,  too  long  for  the  service  on  which  she  was  specially 
sent.  I,  of  course,  shall  be  abused  for  the  escape  of  the  Ala- 
bama and  her  destruction  of  property  by  those  who  know 
nothing  of  the  misconduct  of  Wilkes.  The  propriety  of  re- 
calling that  officer  is  more  apparent  than  ever.  He  has 
accomplished  nothing,  but  has  sadly  interrupted  and  de- 
feated the  plans  of  the  Department.  The  country,  ignor- 
ant of  these  facts  and  faults,  will  disapprove  his  removal, 
and  assail  the  Department  for  the  mischief  of  the  Alabama, 
whereas,  had  he  been  earlier  removed,  the  latter  would  not 
have  happened. 

1863]          FOOTE   SUCCEEDS   DU   PONT  317 

I  this  morning  sent  for  Admiral  Foote  and  had  a  free  and 
full  talk  with  him  in  regard  to  the  command  of  the  South 
Atlantic  Squadron.  I  am  satisfied  he  would  be  pleased 
with  the  position,  and  really  desired  it  when  he  knew  Du 
Pont  was  to  be  relieved.  I  then  introduced  him  to  General 
Gillmore,  and  with  the  charts  and  maps  before  us  took  a 
rapid  survey  of  the  harbor  and  plan  of  operations.  Before 
doing  this,  I  said  to  Foote  that  I  thought  it  would  be  well 
for  the  country,  the  service,  and  himself,  were  Admiral 
Dahlgren  associated  with  him.  He  expressed  the  pleasure 
it  would  give  him,  but  doubted  if  D.  would  consent  to 
serve  as  second. 

I  requested  Mr.  Fox  to  call  on  D.  and  inform  him  that 
I  had  given  Foote  the  squadron,  that  I  should  be  glad  to 
have  him  embark  with  Foote,  and  take  an  active  part 
against  Charleston.  If  he  responded  favorably,  I  wished 
him  to  come  with  Fox  to  the  conference.  Fox  returned 
with  an  answer  that  not  only  was  D.  unwilling  to  go  as 
second,  but  that  he  wished  to  decline  entirely,  unless  he 
could  have  command  of  both  naval  and  land  forces.  This 
precludes  farther  thought  of  him.  I  regret  it  for  his  own 
sake.  It  is  one  of  the  errors  of  a  lifetime.  He  has  not  seen 
the  sea  service  he  ought  for  his  rank,  and  there  is  a  feeling 
towards  him,  on  account  of  his  advancement,  among  naval 
men  which  he  had  now  an  opportunity  to  remove.  No  one 
questions  his  abilities  as  a  skillful  and  scientific  ordnance 
officer,  but  some  of  his  best  friends  in  his  profession  doubt 
his  capability  as  a  naval  officer  on  such  duty  as  is  here  pro- 
posed. It  is  doubtful  if  he  ever  will  have  another  so  good 
an  opportunity. 

Foote  says  he  will  himself  see  D.,  and  has  a  conviction 
that  he  can  induce  him  to  go  with  him.  I  doubt  it.  Dahl- 
gren is  very  proud  and  aspiring,  and  will  injure  himself  and 
his  professional  standing  in  consequence.  With  undoubted 
talents  of  a  certain  kind  he  has  intense  selfishness,  and  I  am 
sorry  to  see  him  on  this  occasion,  as  I  have  seen  him  on 
others,  regardless  of  the  feelings  and  rights  of  officers  of 

318  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [MAY  29 

greater  experience,  who  have  seen  vastly  more  sea  service 
and  who  possess  high  naval  qualities  and  undoubted  merit. 
In  a  matter  of  duty,  such  as  this,  he  shows  what  is  charged 
upon  him,  —  that  he  is  less  devoted  to  the  country  than  to 
himself,  that  he  never  acts  on  any  principle  of  self-sacrifice. 
While  friendly  to  him,  as  I  have  shown  on  repeated  occa- 
sions, I  am  friendly  to  others  also,  and  must  respect  their 
feelings  and  protect  their  rights. 

May  30,  Saturday.  I  am  surprised  at  the  loose  and  im- 
proper management  of  General  Dix  in  regard  to  the  block- 
ade and  traffic  in  the  Rebel  region.  Admiral  Lee  has  sent 
me,  yesterday  and  to-day,  some  strange  permits  for  trade 
signed  by  Dix,  wholly  unauthorized  and  which  cannot  in 
sincerity  and  good  faith  be  allowed. 

May  31,  Sunday.  Captain  Simpson,  who  has  been  se- 
lected by  Admiral  Foote  as  his  Fleet  Captain  and  special 
confidant,  arrived  to-day  from  Newport.  Both  he  and  F. 
were  waiting  for  me,  and  met  me  at  the  church  door  as 
I  came  from  morning  service,  and  accompanied  me  to  my 
house.  We  had  some  general  talk  in  regard  to  propositions 
and  duties.  Foote  desires  to  leave  this  evening  for  the 
North  and  Simpson  goes  with  him. 

Admiral  Lardner  called  this  afternoon.  Came  on  from 
Philadelphia  for  instructions  and  final  orders.  He  will  sail 
on  Tuesday  hi  the  Ticonderoga  to  take  command  of  the 
West  India  Squadron.  I  am  to  encounter  the  resentment 
of  Wilkes  and  Du  Pont  at  the  same  time.  They  are  not 
friends,  but  may  suppress  mutual  dislike  in  a  mutual  as- 
sault on  me.  Wilkes  does  not  disappoint  me,  but  Du  Pont 
does.  The  former  is  the  least  dangerous,  though  the  most 
rash  and  violent. 


The  Arrest  of  Vallandigham  and  the  Case  of  the  Chicago  Times  —  The 
Removal  of  Wilkes  —  Count  Gurowski  on  Welles's  Appointment  to  the 
Cabinet  —  General  Milroy  at  Winchester  —  The  President  and  the 
Cabinet  kept  in  Ignorance  of  Army  Movements  —  Lack  of  Confidence 
in  Hooker  —  Alarm  at  Rumors  of  Confederate  Advance  into  Pennsyl- 
vania —  The  President  calls  for  100,000  Volunteers  —  The  President's 
Opinion  of  "Orpheus  C.  Kerr"  —  Illness  of  Admiral  Foote  —  The  Sec- 
retary of  State  and  the  Matamoras  Situation  —  Sumner's  Opinion  of 
Hooker  —  Appointment  of  Dahlgren  to  the  South  Atlantic  Squadron 
in  Foote's  Place  —  The  French  Tobacco  in  Richmond  —  Estimate  of 
Dahlgren  —  The  Monitors  and  the  Fifteen-Inch  Guns  —  Founding  of 
the  .Army  and  Navy  Gazette  —  Congratulations  to  Commodore  Rodgers 
on  the  Capture  of  the  Fingal  —  The  President  betrays  Doubts  of  Hooker 

—  Blair  on  the  Presidential  Aspirations  of  Chase  and  McClellan  — 
Death  of  Admiral  Foote  —  His  Lifelong  Friendship  with  Welles  — 
Needless  Alarm  for  the  Safety  of  New  York  —  Meade  succeeds  Hooker 

—  Rumors  of  Confederate  Raids  near  Washington  —  Lee's  Advance 
into  Pennsylvania. 

June  1,  Monday.  Gave  the  President  this  A.M.  a  list  of 
applicants  for  appointment  to  the  Naval  Academy.  A  great 
crowd  was  in  attendance;  I  therefore  left  the  list  for  him 
to  examine  and  deferred  action  until  another  interview. 

Gave  Admiral  Lardner  written  instructions  at  some 
length,  and  had  a  pretty  full  conversation  in  regard  to  his 
duties.  He  is  discreet,  prudent,  perhaps  over-cautious,  and 
I  fear  may  want  energy  and  force,  but  until  he  is  tested  I 
will  not  pass  judgment. 

June  2,  Tuesday.  Chase,  Blair,  Bates,  and  myself  were 
at  the  Cabinet-meeting.  Seward  was  absent,  but  his  son 
was  present.  So  also  was  Judge  Otto,  Assistant  Secretary 
of  the  Interior.  Stanton,  though  absent,  sent  no  represent- 
ative. He  condemns  the  practice  of  allowing  assistants  to 
be  present  in  Cabinet  council,  a  practice  which  was  intro- 
duced by  Seward,  and  says  he  will  never  submit  or  discuss 

320  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [JUNE  2 

any  important  question,  when  an  assistant  is  present.  I 
think  this  is  the  general  feeling  and  the  practice  of  all. 

There  was  some  discussion  of  affairs  at  Vicksburg.  The 
importance  of  capturing  that  stronghold  and  opening  the 
navigation  of  the  river  is  appreciated  by  all,  and  confidence 
is  expressed  in  Grant,  but  it  seems  that  not  enough  was  do- 
ing. The  President  said  Halleck  declares  he  can  furnish  no 
additional  troops.  As  yet  I  have  seen  nothing  to  admire  in 
the  military  management  of  General  Halleck,  whose  mind 
is  heavy  and,  if  employed  at  all,  is  apparently  engaged  on 
something  else  than  the  public  matter  in  hand.  At  this 
time  when  the  resources  of  the  nation  should  be  called  out 
and  activity  pervade  all  military  operations,  he  sits  back 
in  his  chair,  doing  comparatively  nothing.  It  worries  the 
President,  yet  he  relies  upon  Halleck  and  apparently  no 
one  else  in  the  War  Department.  No  one  more  fully  real- 
izes the  magnitude  of  the  occasion,  and  the  vast  conse- 
quences involved,  than  the  President;  he  wishes  all  to  be 
done  that  can  be  done,  but  yet  in  army  operations  will  not 
move  or  do  except  by  the  consent  of  the  dull,  stolid,  inef- 
ficient, and  incompetent  General-in-Chief. 

Stanton  does  not  attend  one  half  of  the  Cabinet-meet- 
ings. When  he  comes,  he  communicates  little  of  import- 
ance. Not  unfrequently  he  has  a  private  conference  with 
the  President  in  the  corner  of  the  room,  or  with  Seward  in 
the  library.  Chase,  Blair,  and  Bates  have  each  expressed 
their  mortification  and  chagrin  that  things  were  so  con- 
ducted. To-day,  as  we  came  away,  Blair  joined  me,  and 
said  he  knew  not  what  we  were  coming  to;  that  he  had 
tried  to  have  things  different. 

June  3,  Wednesday.  Wrote  Du  Pont  that  Foote  would 
relieve  him.  I  think  he  anticipates  it  and  perhaps  wants  it 
to  take  place.  He  makes  no  suggestions,  gives  no  advice, 
presents  no  opinion,  says  he  will  obey  orders.  He  is  evi- 
dently uneasy,  —  it  appears  to  me  as  much  dissatisfied 
with  himself  as  any  one.  Everything  shows  he  is  a  disap- 

1863]     THE   ARREST  OF  VALLANDIGHAM      321 

pointed  man,  afflicted  with  his  own  infirmities.  I  perceive 
he  is  preparing  for  a  controversy  with  the  Department,  — 
laying  out  the  ground,  getting  his  officers  committed,  — 
and  he  has  besides  strong  friends  in  Congress  and  else- 
where. He  has  been  well  and  kindly  treated  by  the  De- 
partment. I  have  the  name  and  blame  of  favoring  him  by 
some  of  the  best  officers,  and  have  borne  with  his  aberra- 
tions passively. 

The  arrest  of  Vallandigham  and  the  order  to  suppress 
the  circulation  of  the  Chicago  Times  in  his  military  dis- 
trict issued  by  General  Burnside  have  created  much  feel- 
ing. It  should  not  be  otherwise.  The  proceedings  were 
arbitrary  and  injudicious.  It  gives  bad  men  the  right  of 
questions,  an  advantage  of  which  they  avail  themselves. 
Good  men,  who  wish  to  support  the  Administration,  find  it 
difficult  to  defend  these  acts.  They  are  Burnside's,  un- 
prompted, I  think,  by  any  member  of  the  Administration, 
and  yet  the  responsibility  is  here  unless  they  are  dis- 
avowed and  B.  called  to  an  account,  which  cannot  be  done. 
The  President  —  and  I  think  every  member  of  the  Cabi- 
net— regrets  what  has  been  done,  but  as  to  the  measures 
which  should  now  be  taken  there  are  probably  differences. 

The  constitutional  rights  of  the  parties  injured  are  un- 
doubtedly infringed  upon.  It  is  claimed,  however,  that 
the  Constitution,  laws,  and  authorities  are  assailed  with  a 
view  to  their  destruction  by  the  Rebels,  with  whom  V.  and 
the  Chicago  Times  are  in  sympathy  and  concert.  The 
efforts  of  the  Rebels  are  directed  to  the  overthrow  of  the 
government,  and  V.  and  his  associates  unite  with  them  in 
waging  war  against  the  constituted  authorities.  Should 
the  government,  and  those  who  are  called  to  legally  ad- 
minister it,  be  sustained,  or  should  those  who  are  striving 
to  destroy  both?  There  are  many  important  and  difficult 
problems  to  solve,  growing  out  of  the  present  condition  of 
affairs.  Where  is  the  constitutional  right  to  interdict  trade 
between  citizens,  to  blockade  the  ports,  to  seize  private 
property,  to  dispossess  and  occupy  the  houses  of  the  in- 


habitants,  etc.,  etc.?  In  peaceful  times  there  would  be  no 
right  to  do  these  things;  it  may  be  said  there  would  be 
no  necessity.  Unfortunately  the  peaceful  operations  of  the 
Constitution  have  been  interrupted,  obstructed,  and  are 
still  obstructed.  A  state  of  war  exists ;  violent  and  forcible 
measures  are  resorted  to  in  order  to  resist  and  destroy  the 
government,  which  have  begotten  violent  and  forcible 
measures  to  vindicate  and  restore  its  peaceful  operation. 
Vallandigham  and  the  Chicago  Times  claim  all  the  bene- 
fits, guarantees,  and  protection  of  the  government  which 
they  are  assisting  the  Rebels  to  destroy.  Without  the 
courage  and  manliness  to  go  over  to  the  public  enemy, 
to  whom  they  give,  so  far  as  they  dare,  aid  and  comfort, 
they  remain  here  to  promote  discontent  and  disaffection. 
While  I  have  no  sympathy  for  those  who  are,  in  their 
hearts,  as  unprincipled  traitors  as  Jefferson  Davis,  I  lament 
that  our  military  officers  should,  without  absolute  neces- 
sity, disregard  those  great  principles  on  which  our  govern- 
ment and  institutions  rest. 

June  4,  Thursday.  Only  a  sense  of  duty  would  have  led 
me  to  relieve  Du  Pont  and  Wilkes.  With  D.  my  relations 
have  been  kind  and  pleasant,  on  my  part  confiding.  Lat- 
terly he  has  disappointed  me,  and  given  indication  that  my 
confidence  was  not  returned.  Wilkes  is  a  different  man  and 
of  an  entirely  different  temperament.  Du  Pont  is  pleasant 
in  manner  and  one  of  the  most  popular  officers  in  the  Navy; 
Wilkes  is  arbitrary  and  one  of  the  most  unpopular.  There 
are  exceptions  in  both  cases.  Du  Pont  is  scrupulous  to 
obey  orders;  Wilkes  often  disregards  and  recklessly  breaks 
them.  The  Governments  of  Great  Britain,  Denmark, 
Mexico,  and  Spain  have  each  complained  of  Wilkes,  but, 
except  in  the  case  of  Denmark,  it  appears  to  me  without 
much  cause,  and  even  in  the  case  of  Denmark  the  cause 
was  aggravated.  There  was  some  mismanagement  in  the 
Mexican  case  that  might  not  stand  close  scrutiny.  As 
regards  the  rights  of  neutrals,  he  has  so  far  as  I  yet  know, 

1863]  THE   REMOVAL   OF  WILKES  323 

deported  himself  correctly,  and  better  than  I  feared  so  far 
as  England  is  concerned,  after  the  affair  of  the  Trent  and 
with  his  intense  animosity  towards  that  government.  His 
position  has  doubtless  been  cause  of  jealousy  and  irritation 
on  the  part  of  Great  Britain,  and  in  that  respect  his  selec- 
tion from  the  beginning  had  its  troubles.  He  has  accom- 
plished less  than  I  expected;  has  been  constantly  grumbling 
and  complaining,  which  was  expected;  has  captured  a  few 
blockade-runners,  but  not  an  armed  cruiser,  which  was  his 
special  duty,  and  has  probably  defeated  the  well-devised 
plan  of  the  Navy  Department  to  take  the  Alabama.  At  the 
last  advices  most  of  his  squadron  was  concentrated  at  St. 
Thomas,  including  the  Vanderbilt,  which  should  then  have 
been  on  the  equator,  by  specific  orders.  To-day  Mrs. 
Wilkes,  with  whom  we  have  been  sociable,  and  I  might 
almost  say  intimate,  writes  Mrs.  Welles  a  note  asking  if 
any  change  has  been  made  in  the  command  of  the  West 
India  Squadron.  This  note  was  on  my  table  as  I  came  out 
from  breakfast.  The  answer  of  Mrs.  Welles  was,  I  suppose, 
not  sufficiently  definite,  for  I  received  a  note  with  similar 
inquiries  in  the  midst  of  pressing  duties,  and  the  messenger 
was  directed  to  await  an  answer.  I  frankly  informed  her 
of  the  change.  Alienation  and  probably  anger  will  follow, 
but  I  could  not  do  differently,  though  this  necessary 
official  act  will,  not  unlikely,  be  resented  as  a  personal 

June  5,  Friday.  The  President  read  to-day  a  paper 
which  he  had  prepared  in  reply  to  Erastus  Corning  and 
others.  It  has  vigor  and  ability  and  with  some  corrections 
will  be  a  strong  paper. 

June  6,  Saturday.  Am  unhappy  over  our  affairs.  The 
Army  of  the  Potomac  is  doing  but  little;  I  do  not  learn  that 
much  is  expected  or  intended.  The  failure  at  Chancellors- 
ville  has  never  been  satisfactorily  explained.  Perhaps  it 
cannot  be.  Some  of  the  officers  say  if  there  had  been  no 

324  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES       [JUNE  6 

whiskey  in  the  army  after  crossing  the  Rappahannock  we 
should  have  had  complete  success.  But  the  President  and 
Halleck  are  silent  on  this  subject. 

How  far  Halleck  is  sustaining  Grant  at  Vicksburg  I  do 
not  learn.  He  seems  heavy  and  uncertain  in  regard  to 
matters  there.  A  further  failure  at  V.  will  find  no  justifica- 
tion. To-day  he  talks  of  withdrawing  a  portion  of  the  small 
force  at  Port  Royal.  I  am  not,  however,  as  anxious  as  some 
for  an  immediate  demonstration  on  Charleston.  There  are, 
I  think,  strong  reasons  for  deferring  action  for  a  time,  un- 
less the  army  is  confident  of  success  by  approaches  on 
Morris  Island.  Halleck  is  confident  the  place  can  be  so 
taken.  But  while  he  expresses  this  belief,  he  is  not  earnest 
in  carrying  it  into  effect.  He  has  suddenly  broken  out  with 
zeal  for  Vicksburg,  and  is  ready  to  withdraw  most  of  the 
small  force  at  Port  Royal  and  send  it  to  the  Mississippi. 
Before  they  could  reach  Grant,  the  fate  of  Vicksburg  will 
be  decided.  If  such  a  movement  is  necessary  now,  it  was 
weeks  ago,  while  we  were  in  consultation  for  army  work 
in  South  Carolina  and  Georgia. 

Halleck  inspires  no  zeal  in  the  army  or  among  OUT  sol- 
diers. Stanton  is  actually  hated  by  many  officers,  and  is 
more  intimate  with  certain  extreme  partisans  in  Congress 
—  the  Committee  on  the  Conduct  of  War  and  others  — 
than  with  the  Executive  Administration  and  military  men. 
The  Irish  element  is  dissatisfied  with  the  service,  and  there 
is  an  unconquerable  prejudice  on  the  part  of  many  whites 
against  black  soldiers.  But  all  our  increased  military 
strength  now  comes  from  the  negroes.  Partyism  is  stronger 
with  many  in  the  Free  States  than  patriotism.  Every 
coward  and  niggardly  miser  opposes  the  War.  The  former 
from  fear,  lest  he  should  be  drafted;  the  latter  to  avoid 

The  examination  at  the  Naval  School  has  closed,  and  the 
practice  ship,  the  Macedonian,  sails  to-day.  The  report 
of  the  board  is  highly  commendatory  of  the  school.  I  have, 
amidst  multiplied  duties,  tried  to  make  the  school  useful, 

1863]       THE  WEEKLY   BAND   CONCERTS        325 

and  have  met  with  opposition  and  obstruction  when  I 
should  have  had  support. 

June  8,  Monday.  Wrote  Secretary  of  State  on  the  sub- 
ject of  the  complaints  of  the  Danish  Government  against 
Wilkes,  who  is  charged  with  abusing  hospitality  at  St. 
Thomas.  Made  the  best  statement  I  could  without  cen- 
suring Wilkes,  who  is  coming  home,  partly  from  these 

Have  a  letter  from  Foote,  who  is  not  ready  to  relieve  Du 
Pont.  Speaks  of  bad  health  and  disability.  It  must  be 
real,  for  whatever  his  regard  for,  or  tenderness  to  D.,  Foote 
promptly  obeys  orders. 

Spoke  to  the  President  regarding  weekly  performances  of 
the  Marine  Band.  It  has  been  customary  for  them  to  play 
in  the  public  grounds  south  of  the  Mansion  once  a  week  in 
summer,  for  many  years.  Last  year  it  was  intermitted, 
because  Mrs.  Lincoln  objected  in  consequence  of  the  death 
of  her  son.  There  was  grumbling  and  discontent,  and  there 
will  be  more  this  year  if  the  public  are  denied  the  privilege 
for  private  reasons.  The  public  will  not  sympathize  in  sor- 
rows which  are  obtrusive  and  assigned  as  a  reason  for  de- 
priving them  of  enjoyments  to  which  they  have  been 
accustomed,  and  it  is  a  mistake  to  persist  in  it.  When  I  in- 
troduced the  subject  to-day,  the  President  said  Mrs.  L. 
would  not  consent,  certainly  not  until  after  the  4th  of 
July.  I  stated  the  case  pretty  frankly,  although  the  sub- 
ject is  delicate,  and  suggested  that  the  band  could  play 
in  Lafayette  Square.  Seward  and  Usher,  who  were  present, 
advised  that  course.  The  President  told  me  to  do  what  I 
thought  best. 

Count  Adam  Gurowski,  who  is  splenetic  and  querulous, 
a  strange  mixture  of  good  and  evil,  always  growling  and 
discontented,  who  loves  to  say  harsh  things  and  speak 
good  of  but  few,  seldom  makes  right  estimates  and  correct 
discrimination  of  character,  but  means  to  be  truthful  if  not 
just,  tells  me  my  selection  for  the  Cabinet  was  acquiesced 


in  by  the  radical  circle  to  which  he  belongs  because  they 
felt  confident  my  influence  with  the  President  would  be 
good,  and  that  I  would  be  a  safeguard  against  the  schem- 
ing and  plotting  of  Weed  and  Seward,  whose  intrigues  they 
understood  and  watched.  When  I  came  here,  just  preced- 
ing the  inauguration  in  1861,  I  first  met  this  Polish  exile, 
and  was  amused  and  interested  in  him,  though  I  could  not 
be  intimate  with  one  of  his  rough,  coarse,  ardent,  and  vio- 
lent partisan  temperament.  His  associates  were  then 
Greeley,  D.  D.  Field,  Opdyke,  and  men  of  that  phase  of 
party.  I  have  no  doubt  that  what  he  says  is  true  of  his 
associates,  colored  to  some  extent  by  his  intense  preju- 
dices. He  was  for  a  year  or  two  in  the  State  Department 
as  a  clerk  under  Seward,  and  does  not  conceal  that  he  was 
really  a  spy  upon  him,  or,  as  he  says,  watched  him.  He 
says  that  when  Seward  became  aware  that  the  radicals 
relied  upon  me  as  a  friend  to  check  the  loose  notions  and 
ultraism  of  the  State  Department,  he  (S.)  went  to  work 
with  the  President  to  destroy  my  influence;  that  by  per- 
sisting he  so  far  succeeded  as  to  induce  the  President  to  go 
against  me  on  some  important  measures,  where  his  opinion 
leaned  to  mine;  that  in  this  way,  Seward  had  intrenched 
himself.  There  is  doubtless  some  truth  —  probably  some 
error  —  in  the  Count's  story.  I  give  the  outlines.  Eames, 
with  whom  he  is  intimate,  has  told  me  these  things  before. 
The  Count  makes  him  his  confidant. 

June  9,  Tuesday.  Admiral  Foote  arrived  this  A.M.  Is 
ardent  and  earnest  for  his  new  duties.  Is  fully  possessed  of 
my  views.  Left  this  evening  for  New  York.  Will  sail  next 
Monday.  In  the  mean  time,  Du  Pont  must  hold  on.  Had 
a  carefully  prepared  and  characteristic  letter  from  Du 
Pont,  inclosing  one  from  the  commanders  of  the  ironclads, 
which  he  has  prompted  and  secured.  This  is  for  the  future, 
and  to  make  a  record  for  himself. 

June  10,  Wednesday.  Rumors  of  a  cavalry  fight  in  Cul- 

1863]         INTERFERING   CONGRESSMEN          327 

peper.  The  President  and  Stanton  have  gone  to  Falmouth. 
Nothing  definite  from  Vicksburg.  Am  not  favorably  im- 
pressed with  what  I  hear  of  the  fight  on  the  Rappahan- 

The  accounts  of  piratical  depredations  disturb  me.  My 
views,  instructions,  and  arrangements  to  capture  the  Ala- 
bama, which  would  have  prevented  these  depredations, 
have  failed  through  the  misconduct  of  Wilkes.  The  Rebel 
cruisers  are  now  beginning  to  arm  their  prizes  and  find 
adventurers  to  man  them.  Our  neutral  friends  will  be 
likely  to  find  the  police  of  the  seas  in  a  bad  way. 

June  11,  Thursday.  The  President  informs  me  that  he 
did  not  go  to  Falmouth,  but  merely  to  Fort  Lyon  near 

June  12,  Friday.  The  interference  of  Members  of  Con- 
gress in  the  petty  appointments  and  employment  of  labor- 
ers in  the  navy  yards  is  annoying  and  pernicious.  The 
public  interest  is  not  regarded  by  the  Members,  but  they 
crowd  partisan  favorites  for  mechanical  positions  in  place 
of  good  mechanics  and  workmen,  and  when  I  refuse  to 
entertain  their  propositions,  they  take  offense.  I  can't 
help  it  if  they  do.  I  will  not  prostitute  my  trust  to  their 
schemes  and  selfish  personal  partisanship. 

June  13,  Saturday.  We  had  music  from  the  Marine  Band 
to-day  in  Lafayette  Square.  The  people  are  greatly 
pleased.  Had  word  just  after  five  this  P.M.  that  three  vessels 
were  yesterday  captured  by  a  pirate  craft  off  Cape  Henry 
and  burnt.  Sent  Fox  at  once  with  orders  to  telegraph  to 
New  York  and  Philadelphia,  etc.,  for  every  vessel  in  condi- 
tion to  proceed  to  sea  without  delay  in  search  of  this  wolf 
that  is  prowling  so  near  us.  If  necessary  the  Tuscarora 
must  sail  forthwith  and  not  wait  for  Admiral  Foote. 

June  14,  Sunday.  Farther  reports  of  depredations.  Got 

328  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [JUNE  14 

off  vessels  last  night  from  New  York  and  Hampton  Roads. 
Sent  to  Boston  for  Montgomery  to  cruise  off  Nantucket. 

Scary  rumors  abroad  of  army  operations  and  a  threat- 
ened movement  of  Lee  upon  Pennsylvania.  No  doubt 
there  has  been  a  change.  I  fear  our  friends  are  in  diffi- 
culties. Went  to  the  War  Department  this  evening.  Found 
the  President  and  General  Halleck  with  Secretary  of  War 
in  the  room  of  the  telegraphic  operator.  Stanton  was  un- 
easy, said  it  would  be  better  to  go  into  another  room.  The 
President  and  myself  went  into  the  Secretary's  office;  the 
other  two  remained.  The  President  said  quietly  to  me  he 
was  feeling  very  bad;  that  he  found  Milroy  and  his  com- 
mand were  captured,  or  would  be.  He  (Milroy)  has  writ- 
ten that  he  can  hold  out  five  days,  but  at  the  end  of  five 
days  he  will  be  in  no  better  condition,  for  he  can't  be  re- 
lieved. "It  is,"  said  the  President,  " Harper's  Ferry  over 

I  inquired  why  Milroy  did  not  fall  back,  —  if  he  had  not 
been  apprised  by  Hooker,  or  from  here,  what  Lee  was 
doing,  etc.  I  added,  if  Lee's  army  was  moving,  Hooker 
would  take  advantage  and  sever  his  forces,  perhaps  take 
his  rear  guard.  The  President  said  it  would  seem  so,  but 
that  our  folks  appeared  to  know  but  little  how  things  are, 
and  showed  no  evidence  that  they  ever  availed  themselves 
of  any  advantage. 

How  fully  the  President  is  informed,  and  whether  he  is 
made  acquainted  with  the  actual  state  of  things  is  uncer- 
tain. He  depends  on  the  War  Department,  which,  I  think, 
is  not  informed  and  is  in  confusion.  From  neither  of  the 
others  did  I  get  a  word.  Stanton  came  once  or  twice  into 
the  room,  where  we  were,  in  a  fussy  way.  Halleck  did  not 
move  from  his  chair  where  he  sat  with  his  cigar,  the  door 
being  open  between  the  two  rooms.  From  some  expres- 
sions which  were  dropped  from  H.,  I  suspect  poor  Milroy 
is  to  be  made  the  scapegoat,  and  blamed  for  the  stupid 
blunders,  neglects,  and  mistakes  of  those  who  should  have 
warned  and  advised  him. 

1863]    LACK   OF   CONFIDENCE   IN   HOOKER   329 

I  do  not  learn  that  any  members  of  the  Cabinet  are 
informed  of  army  movements.  The  President  is  kept  in 
ignorance  and  defers  to  the  General-in-Chief,  though  not 
pleased  that  he  is  not  fully  advised  of  matters  as  they 
occur.  There  is  a  modest  distrust  of  himself,  of  which  ad- 
vantage is  taken.  For  a  week,  movements  have  been  going 
on  of  which  he  has  known  none,  or  very  few,  of  the  details. 

I  came  away  from  the  War  Department  painfully  im- 
pressed. After  recent  events,  Hooker  cannot  have  the  con- 
fidence which  is  essential  to  success,  and  all-important  to 
the  commander  in  the  field.  Halleck  does  not  grow  upon 
me  as  a  military  man  of  power  and  strength;  has  little  apti- 
tude, skill,  or  active  energy.  In  this  state  of  things,  the  able 
Rebel  general  is  moving  a  powerful  army,  and  has  no  one  to 
confront  him  on  whose  ability  and  power  the  country  relies. 
There  was  confidence  in  McClellan's  ability  to  organize,  to 
defend,  and  to  repel,  though  he  was  worthless  in  attack,  but 
there  is  no  such  feeling  towards  Hooker.  He  has  not  grown 
in  public  estimation  since  placed  in  command.  If  he  is  in- 
temperate, as  is  reported,  God  help  us!  The  President,  who 
was  the  first  person  to  intimate  this  failing  to  me,  has  a  per- 
sonal liking  for  Hooker,  and  clings  to  him  when  others  give 

The  letter  to  Erastus  Corning  and  others  is  published 
and  well  received. 

June  15,  Monday.  Met  Blair  at  the  depot.  Told  him  of 
the  conversation  I  had  last  evening  with  the  President  and 
the  appearance  of  things  at  the  War  Department.  It  af- 
fected him  greatly.  He  has  never  had  confidence  in  either 
Stanton,  Halleck,  or  Hooker.  He  fairly  groaned  that  the 
President  should  continue  to  trust  them  and  defer  to  them, 
when  the  magnitude  of  the  questions  is  considered. 
" Strange,  strange,"  he  exclaimed,  "that  the  President, 
who  has  sterling  ability,  should  give  himself  over  so  com- 
pletely to  Stanton  and  Seward." 

Something  of  a  panic    pervades  the  city.    Singular 

330  DIARY  OF  GIDEON  WELLES      [JUNE  15 

rumors  reach  us  of  Rebel  advances  into  Maryland.  It  is 
said  they  have  reached  Hagerstown,  and  some  of  them 
have  penetrated  as  far  as  Chambersburg  in  Pennsylvania. 
These  reports  are  doubtless  exaggerations,  but  I  can  get 
nothing  satisfactory  from  the  War  Department  of  the 
Rebel  movements,  or  of  our  own.  There  is  trouble,  con- 
fusion, uncertainty,  where  there  should  be  calm  intel- 

I  have  a  panic  telegraph  from  Governor  Curtin,  who  is 
excitable  and  easily  alarmed,  entreating  that  guns  and  gun- 
ners may  be  sent  from  the  navy  yard  at  Philadelphia  to 
Harrisburg  without  delay.  We  have  not  a  gunner  that  we 
can  spare.  Commodore  Stribling  can  spare  men,  tempo- 
rarily, from  the  navy  yard. 

I  went  again,  at  a  late  hour,  to  the  War  Department,  but 
could  get  no  facts  or  intelligence  from  the  Secretary,  who 
either  does  not  know  or  dislikes  to  disclose  the  position  and 
condition  of  the  army.  He  did  not  know  that  the  Rebels 
had  reached  Hagerstown;  did  not  know  but  some  of  them 
had;  quite  as  likely  to  be  in  Philadelphia  as  Harrisburg. 
Ridiculed  Curtin's  fears.  Thought  it  would  be  well,  how- 
ever, to  send  such  guns  and  men  as  could  be  spared  to 
allay  his  apprehension.  I  could  not  get  a  word  concerning 
General  Milroy  and  his  command,  —  whether  safe  or  cap- 
tured, retreating  or  maintaining  his  position.  All  was  vague, 
opaque,  thick  darkness.  I  really  think  Stanton  is  no  better 
posted  than  myself,  and  from  what  Stanton  says  am  afraid 
Hooker  does  not  comprehend  Lee's  intentions  nor  know 
how  to  counteract  them.  Halleck  has  no  activity;  never 
exhibits  sagacity  or  foresight,  though  he  can  record  and 
criticize  the  past.  It  looks  to  me  as  if  Lee  was  putting 
forth  his  whole  energy  and  force  in  one  great  and  desperate 
struggle  which  shall  be  decisive;  that  he  means  to  strike 
a  blow  that  will  be  severely  felt,  and  of  serious  conse- 
quences, and  thus  bring  the  War  to  a  close.  But  all  is  con- 

1863]      100,000  VOLUNTEERS  CALLED  FOR       331 

June  16,  Tuesday.  We  hear  this  morning  that  Milroy  has 
cut  his  way  through  the  Rebels  and  arrived  at  Harper's 
Ferry,  where  he  joins  Tyler.  I  cannot  learn  from  the  War 
Department  how  early  Milroy  was  warned  from  here  that 
the  Rebels  were  approaching  him  and  that  it  would  be 
necessary  for  him  to  fall  back.  Halleck  scolds  and  swears 
about  him  as  a  stupid,  worthless  fellow.  This  seems  his 
way  to  escape  censure  himself  and  cover  his  stupidity  in 
higher  position. 

The  President  yesterday  issued  a  proclamation  calling 
for  100,000  volunteers  to  be  raised  in  Maryland,  Pennsyl- 
vania, New  York,  Ohio,  and  West  Virginia.  This  call  is 
made  from  outside  pressure,  and  intelligence  received 
chiefly  from  Pennsylvania  and  not  from  the  War  Depart- 
ment or  Headquarters.  Tom  A.  Scott,  late  Assistant  Sec- 
retary of  War,  came  on  expressly  from  Pennsylvania,  sent 
by  Curtin,  and  initiated  the  proceeding. 

Halleck  sits,  and  smokes,  and  swears,  and  scratches 
his  arm  and  [indecipherable],  but  exhibits  little  military 
capacity  or  intelligence;  is  obfusticated,  muddy,  uncertain, 
stupid  as  to  what  is  doing  or  to  be  done. 

Neither  Seward  nor  Stanton  nor  Blair  nor  Usher  was 
at  the  Cabinet-meeting.  The  two  last  are  not  in  Washing- 
ton. At  such  a  time  all  should  be  here  and  the  meeting 
full  and  frequent  for  general  consultation  and  general  pur- 

Scarcely  a  word  on  army  movements.  Chase  attempted 
to  make  inquiries;  asked  whether  a  demonstration  could 
not  be  made  on  Richmond,  but  the  President  gave  it  no 
countenance.  No  suggestions  ever  come  from  Halleck. 

Young  Ulric  Dahlgren,  who  is  on  Hooker's  staff,  came  in 
to-day.  He  is  intelligent  and  gallant.  I  asked  where  the 
army  was.  He  says  between  Fairfax  and  Centerville,  or 
most  of  it  was  there;  that  Lee  and  the  Rebel  army  are  on 
the  opposite  side  of  the  mountain,  fronting  Hooker.  He 
knows  little  or  nothing  of  the  reported  Rebel  advances  into 
Pennsylvania,  and  thinks  Hooker  does  not  know  it.  This 


is  extraordinary,  but  it  accounts  for  the  confusion  and  be- 
wilderment at  the  War  Office. 

June  17,  Wednesday.  Had  a  telegram  at  ten  last  night 
from  Mr.  Felton,  President  of  the  Philadelphia  &  Balti- 
more Railroad,  requesting  that  a  gunboat  might  be  sent 
to  Havre  de  Grace  to  protect  the  Company's  ferryboat 
and  property.  Says  he  has  information  that  the  Rebels 
intend  going  down  the  river  to  seize  it. 

I  went  forthwith  to  the  War  Department  to  ascertain 
whether  there  was  really  any  such  alarming  necessity,  for 
it  seemed  to  me,  from  all  I  had  been  able  to  learn,  that  it 
was  a  panic  invocation.  Found  the  President  and  Stanton 
at  the  War  Department,  jubilant  over  intelligence  just 
received  that  no  Rebels  had  reached  Carlisle,  as  had  been 
reported,  and  it  was  believed  they  had  not  even  entered 
Pennsylvania.  Stanton  threw  off  his  reserve,  and  sneered 
and  laughed  at  Felton's  call  for  a  gunboat.  Soon  a  mes- 
senger came  in  from  General  Schenck,  who  declares  no 
Rebels  have  crossed  the  Potomac,  that  the  stragglers  and 
baggage-trains  of  Milroy  had  run  away  in  affright,  and 
squads  of  them,  on  different  parallel  roads,  had  alarmed 
each  other,  and  each  fled  in  terror  with  all  speed  to  Harris- 
burg.  This  alone  was  asserted  to  be  the  basis  of  the  great 
panic  which  had  alarmed  Pennsylvania  and  the  country. 

The  President  was  relieved  and  in  excellent  spirits. 
Stanton  was  apparently  feeling  well,  but  I  could  not  assure 
myself  he  was  wholly  relieved  of  the  load  which  had  been 
hanging  upon  him.  The  special  messenger  brought  a  letter 
to  Stanton,  which  he  read,  but  was  evidently  unwilling  to 
communicate  its  contents,  even  to  the  President,  who  asked 
about  it.  Stanton  wrote  a  few  lines,  which  he  gave  to  the 
officer,  who  left.  General  Meigs  came  in  about  this  time, 
and  I  was  sorry  to  hear  Stanton  communicate  an  exag- 
gerated account  of  Milroy's  disaster,  who,  he  said,  had  not 
seen  a  fight  or  even  an  enemy.  Meigs  indignantly  denied 
the  statement,  and  said  Milroy  himself  had  communicated 

1863]  ORPHEUS  C.  KERR  333 

the  fact  that  he  had  fought  a  battle  and  escaped.  While  he 
(Meigs)  did  not  consider  Milroy  a  great  general,  or  a  man 
of  very  great  ability,  he  believed  him  to  be  truthful  and 
brave,  and  if  General  Schenck's  messenger  said  there  had 
been  no  fight  he  disbelieved  him.  Stanton  insisted  that 
was  what  the  officer  (whom  I  think  he  called  Payson)  said. 
I  told  him  I  did  not  so  understand  the  officer.  The  subject 
was  then  dropped;  but  the  conversation  gave  me  uneasi- 
ness. Why  should  the  Secretary  of  War  wish  to  misrepre- 
sent and  belittle  Milroy?  Why  exaggerate  the  false  rumor 
and  try  to  give  currency  to,  if  he  did  not  originate,  the 
false  statement  that  there  was  no  fight  and  a  panic  flight? 
The  President  was  in  excellent  humor.  He  said  this 
flight  would  be  a  capital  joke  for  Orpheus  C.  Kerr  to  get 
hold  of.  He  could  give  scope  to  his  imagination  over  the 
terror  of  broken  squads  of  panic-stricken  teamsters,  fright- 
ened at  each  other  and  alarming  all  Pennsylvania.  Meigs, 
with  great  simplicity,  inquired  who  this  person  (Orpheus 
C.  Kerr)  was.  "Why,"  said  the  President,  "have  you  not 
read  those  papers?  They  are  in  two  volumes;  any  one  who 
has  not  read  them  must  be  a  heathen."  He  said  he  had 
enjoyed  them  greatly,  except  when  they  attempted  to  play 
their  wit  on  him,  which  did  not  strike  him  as  very  success- 
ful, but  rather  disgusted  him.  "Now  the  hits  that  are 
given  to  you,  Mr.  Welles,  or  to  Chase,  I  can  enjoy,  but  I 
dare  say  they  may  have  disgusted  you  while  I  was  laugh- 
ing at  them.  So  vice  versa  as  regards  myself."  He  then 
spoke  of  a  poem  by  this  Orpheus  C.  Kerr  which  mytholog- 
ically  described  McClellan  as  a  monkey  fighting  a  serpent 
representing  the  Rebellion,  but  the  joke  was  the  monkey 
continually  called  for  "more  tail,"  "more  tail,"  which 
Jupiter  gave  him,  etc.,  etc. 

June  18,  Thursday.  I  find  that  Fox,  whom  I  authorized  to 
telegraph  to  the  Commandant  of  the  Yards  the  other  night 
to  get  off  immediately  vessels  after  the  pirate  Tacony, 
amplified  the  order,  and  that  a  very  large  number  of  ves- 


sels  are  being  chartered  or  pressed  into  the  service.  While 
it  was  necessary  to  have  some,  there  is  such  a  thing  as 
overdoing,  but  the  order  having  gone  out  in  my  name,  I 
could  not  contest  it. 

Have  information  that  Admiral  Foote  is  quite  ill  at  the 
Astor  House,  New  York.  He  came  on  from  New  Haven  to 
New  York,  expecting  to  take  the  Tuscarora  on  Monday 
for  Port  Royal,  but  that  vessel  had  been  dispatched  after 
the  pirate  Tacony.  This  disappointment,  the  excitement, 
over-exertion,  and  domestic  anxiety  and  affliction  have 
probably  had  an  effect  on  his  sensitive  and  nervous  mind. 
He  told  me  with  some  emotion,  when  last  here,  that  his 
wife's  health  was  such  it  would  detain  him  a  few  days  to 
make  certain  indispensable  arrangements,  for  their  parting 
would  be  final,  she  could  not  be  expected  to  live  till  he 

Wrote  Seward  that  the  condition  of  affairs  on  the  Rio 
Grande  and  at  Matamoras  was  unsatisfactory.  We  have 
had  several  conversations  on  the  subject,  in  which  I  have 
tried  to  convince  him  of  the  injury  done  by  the  unrestricted 
trade  and  communication  on  that  river,  and  to  persuade 
him  that  he  could  make  his  mark  and  do  a  great  public 
service  by  procuring  to  be  established  a  principle  in  regard 
to  the  right  of  adjoining  nations,  like  the  United  States 
and  Mexico,  and  the  occupancy  of  a  mutual  highway  like 
the  Rio  Grande,  with  the  necessary  authority  to  enforce 
a  blockade,  —  questions  that  have  never  yet  been  decided 
and  settled  among  nations.  Our  blockade  is  rendered  in 
a  great  degree  ineffective  because  we  cannot  shut  off  traffic 
and  mail  facilities,  or  exclude  commercial  and  postal  inter- 
course with  the  Rebels  via  the  Rio  Grande.  An  immense 
commerce  has  suddenly  sprung  up,  nominally  with  Mata- 
moras, but  actually  with  Texas  and  the  whole  Southwest, 
nay,  with  the  entire  Rebel  region,  for  letters  are  inter- 
changed between  Richmond  and  England  by  that  route. 

There  are  one  or  two  hundred  vessels  off  the  mouth  of 
the  Rio  Grande,  where  there  were  never  more  than  six  or 

1863]          ILLNESS  OF  ADMIRAL  FOOTE  335 

eight  before  the  War,  nor  will  there  be  more  than  a  dozen 
when  the  War  is  over.  English  merchant  adventurers  are 
establishing  regular  lines  with  Matamoras,  of  which  the 
Peterhoff  was  one,  carrying  supplies  and  mails  to  the 
Rebels  and  receiving  cotton  in  return.  Unfortunately,  Mr. 
Seward  has  given  encouragement  to  them,  by  conceding 
the  sanctity  of  captured  mails,  which,  with  the  evidence 
which  would  insure  condemnation,  are  to  be  forwarded 
unopened  to  their  destination.  In  no  respect,  way,  or  man- 
ner does  the  Secretary  of  State  furnish  a  correction  by 
assisting  or  proposing  a  principle  to  be  recognized  by  na- 
tions, or  by  any  arrangement  with  Mexico,  or  France,  or 

June  19,  Friday.  The  illness  of  Admiral  Foote  is  serious, 
I  fear  fatal.  Our  first  intelligence  this  morning  made  his 
case  almost  hopeless;  later  in  the  day  we  have  a  telegraph 
that  he  is  more  comfortable. 

Chase  informs  me  that  he  has  just  returned  from  a  visit 
to  Hooker's  headquarters,  at  or  near  Fairfax  Court-House. 
The  troops,  he  says,  are  in  good  spirits  and  excellent  con- 
dition, as  is  Hooker  himself.  He  commends  Hooker  as  in 
every  respect  all  that  we  could  wish.  His  (Chase's)  tone 
towards  Halleck  is  much  altered  since  our  last  conversa- 
tion. All  of  which  is  encouraging.  But  Chase's  estimate 
and  judgment  of  men  fluctuates  as  he  has  intercourse  with 
them  and  they  are  friendly  and  communicative  or  other- 

June  20,  Saturday.  Tidings  from  New  York  to-day  are 
sad  respecting  Admiral  Foote.  I  fear  he  cannot  recover 
and  that  his  hours  upon  earth  are  few.  His  death  will  be  a 
great  loss  to  the  country,  a  greater  one  in  this  emergency 
to  me  than  to  any  other  out  of  his  own  family.  Individual 
sorrows  and  bereavements  and  personal  friendship  are  not 
to  weigh  in  matters  of  national  concernment,  but  I  cannot 
forget  that  "we  were  boys  together,7'  and  that  in  later  and 


recent  years  we  have  mutually  sustained  each  other.  I 
need  him  and  the  prestige  of  his  name  in  the  place  to  which 
he  has  been  ordered. 

I  have  sent  Dr.  Whelan,  an  old  and  intimate  friend  and 
shipmate  of  Foote,  who  thoroughly  understands  his  phys- 
ical system  and  peculiarities,  —  has  been  his  daily  com- 
panion for  years  in  different  climes,  —  to  New  York.  His 
presence,  even,  will  be  cheering  and  pleasant  to  Foote. 

Sumner's  opinion  and  estimate  of  men  does  not  agree 
with  Chase's.  Sumner  expresses  an  absolute  want  of  con- 
fidence in  Hooker;  says  he  knows  him  to  be  a  blasphemous 
wretch;  that  after  crossing  the  Rappahannock  and  reach- 
ing Centerville,  Hooker  exultingly  exclaimed,  "The  enemy 
is  in  my  power,  and  God  Almighty  cannot  deprive  me  of 
them."  I  have  heard  before  of  this,  but  not  so  direct  and 
positive.  The  sudden  paralysis  that  followed,  when  the 
army  in  the  midst  of  a  successful  career  was  suddenly 
checked  and  commenced  its  retreat,  has  never  been  ex- 
plained. Whiskey  is  said  by  Sumner  to  have  done  the  work. 
The  President  said  if  Hooker  had  been  killed  by  the  shot 
which  knocked  over  the  pillar  that  stunned  him,  we  should 
have  been  successful. 

June  21,  Sunday.  I  have  three  telegrams  from  Dr. 
Whelan  to-day,  all  of  the  same  tenor.  The  last,  at  4  P.M., 
says  Admiral  Foote  continues  much  the  same,  —  insen- 
sible and  slowly  sinking.  Dahlgren,  who  left  New  York 
yesterday,  says  the  case  is  hopeless,  that  Foote  told  him 
it  was  the  last  of  this  world  and  he  was  prepared  for  the 

We  have  pretty  authentic  reports  of  a  protracted  fight 
at  Aldie.  The  War  Department  is  not  communicative, 
and  I  apprehend  for  the  reason  that  it  is  not  better  ad- 
vised than  the  rest  of  us,  as  yet.  A  train  of  ambulances 
passed  this  evening,  going,  I  doubt  not,  for  the  wounded. 

The  Richmond  papers  speak  of  the  capture  of  the 
steamer  Fingal  by  our  ironclads.  This  is  important,  and 

1863]          DAHLGREN  SUCCEEDS  FOOTE          337 

I  am  inclined  to  credit  it.  John  Rodgers  has  written  his 
family  that  he  was  in  Nassau  Sound,  having  been  ordered 
there  to  watch  the  Fingal.  The  Richmond  report  corre- 
sponds with  this,  and  states  she  was  captured  after  a  fight 
of  thirty  minutes  with  the  monitors. 

I  had  to-day  a  full  and  unreserved  talk  with  Dahlgren. 
Told  him  it  was  now  evident  Foote  could  not  go  on  the 
service  to  which  he  was  ordered,  —  at  all  events,  if  he  sur- 
vived, not  for  the  present;  I  should  therefore  designate  him 
to  relieve  Du  Pont.  This  would,  to  some  extent,  involve  the 
selection  of  a  new  staff,  for  it  was  not  likely  that  Foote's 
confidants  were  his  confidants.  [I  remarked]  that  not  un- 
likely some  of  the  elder  officers  who  had  seen  great  sea 
service  would  feel  disinclined  to  remain  on  the  station 
under  him;  that  in  giving  him  this  command  I  was  con- 
sulting the  wishes  of  the  President;  that  to  supersede  Du 
Pont,  under  any  circumstances,  involved  some  risk  and 
responsibility  to  both  the  Department  and  the  recipient; 
that  he  could  not  be  unaware  his  promotion  had  caused 
some  discontent,  and  that  it  would  not  be  lessened  by  this 
command.  If  any  of  his  seniors  in  past  tunes  desired  to  be 
transferred,  they  must  be  permitted  to  do  so,  without 

I  stated  that  this  appointment  was  a  specialty,  im- 
posed upon  the  Department  by  Admiral  Foote's  affliction 
when  on  his  way  to  assume  these  duties;  that  this  inter- 
ruption made  prompt  action  necessary;  that  he  had  sought 
the  privilege  of  leading  in  the  assault  on  Sumter  under 
Du  Pont;  that  I  had  proposed  him  as  an  assistant  and  sec- 
ond to  Foote;  that  he  was  to  go  for  a  particular  purpose, 
and  his  absence  from  the  Bureau  would  therefore  be  tem- 
porary. In  the  mean  time,  Commander  Wise,  the  assist- 
ant who  had  been  associated  with  him,  could  take  charge 
of  and  go  forward  with  the  ordnance  duties  as  well  as,  and 
perhaps  better  than,  any  one  else.  To  all  this  he  assented, 
but  expressed  a  strong  wish  that  a  new  appointment  might 
be  made,  and  he  entirely  relieved  from  the  Bureau.  I 


replied  that  I  could  not  for  a  moment  think  of  relieving 
him  of  charge  of  the  ordnance,  nor  ought  he  to  ask,  or  be 
willing,  to  relinquish  it;  that  was  his  place,  to  which  he  had 
been  educated  and  for  which  he  had  aptitude,  and  it  was 
my  wish  he  should  retain  his  position  as  Chief  of  the 
Ordnance  Bureau  during  my  connection  with  the  Depart- 

As  related  to  any  demonstration  on  Charleston,  should 
any  be  made,  he  was  to  consider  himself  clothed  with  full 
powers,  and  to  prescribe  details,  communicating  at  all 
times  and  without  reserve  to  the  Department;  to  let  me 
have  not  only  all  the  good  news  but  any  bad  news,  and  to 
tell  me  frankly  at  any  time  of  embarrassments,  change  of 
views,  or  difficulties  of  any  kind. 

June  22,  Monday.  The  rumors  yesterday  of  a  fight  near 
Aldie  are  fully  confirmed,  but  as  yet  no  definite  informa- 
tion. It  is  not  always  pleasant  to  go  to  the  War  Depart- 
ment to  have  news  verified,  even  if  they  have  the  facts. 
Often  there  is  unaccountable,  and  I  think  inexcusable, 
want  of  correct  information  at  Army  Headquarters ;  if  there 
is  a  reverse,  or  if  there  is  want  of  information  in  relation  to 
rumors  that  reach  us,  there  is  always  prevarication  and 
sometimes  a  sullen  reserve.  Generally  I  have  found  Stan- 
ton  affable  and  communicative  when  alone,  but  not  always, 
especially  if  there  has  been  disaster  or  unpleasant  news. 
Halleck  is  worse.  There  has  never  been  intimacy  between 
him  and  me;  probably  there  never  will  be.  I  have  not 
called  over  to-day,  for  those  who  have,  and  are  entitled  to 
know  what  was  doing,  have  been  unsuccessful  or  met  with 
an  unpleasant  rebuff. 

June  23,  Tuesday.  Seward  called  this  morning  and  had 
quite  a  story  to  tell  of  foreign  affairs  and  the  successes  that 
have  attended  his  management.  For  a  time,  he  says,  mat- 
ters looked  a  little  threatening  with  France,  but  Count 
Mercier  tells  him  all  is  now  right,  —  we  can  do,  on  certain 

1863]     FRENCH  TOBACCO  IN  RICHMOND      339 

points  which  have  been  controverted,  pretty  much  as  we 

All  this  was  a  prelude  to  a  proposition,  the  object  of 
which  was  to  make  excellent  friends  of  the  French,  who 
have  ten  thousand  hogsheads  of  tobacco  in  Richmond 
which  they  declare  was  purchased  before  the  Rebellion, 
and  which  they  cannot  get  out  by  reason  of  the  blockade. 
This  tobacco  was  being  heavily  taxed  by  the  Rebels,  and 
what  the  French  Government  now  wants,  and  what  he 
very  much  wanted,  was  an  arrangement  by  which  this 
French  tobacco  might  be  got  from  Richmond.  It  would  be 
such  a  capital  thing,  and  the  favor  would  be  so  highly 
appreciated  by  the  French,  that  they  would  become  our 
very  good  friends. 

I  informed  Mr.  Seward  it  was  a  plain  case  and  easily  dis- 
posed of.  We  had  only  to  lift  the  blockade  and  the  French 
tobacco  and  everybody  else's  tobacco  would  leave  Rich- 
mond. I  did  not  see  how  this  favor  could  be  granted  to  the 
French  Government  and  denied  to  other  governments,  and 
if  extended  to  foreigners,  our  own  citizens,  many  of  whom 
had  large  amounts  of  property  in  the  Rebel  region,  could 
not  be  interdicted  from  its  exportation.  In  plain  words 
the  blockade  must  be  maintained  in  good  faith  or  be  aban- 
doned. I  was  not  aware  that  we  were  under  any  special  ob- 
ligation to  the  French  Government;  I  would  not  purchase 
or  bribe,  and  I  was  opposed  to  favoritism  as  a  principle  in 
government.  He  said  his  idea  was  that  a  distinction  might 
be  made  in  this,  —  that  the  tobacco  belonged  to  the  Gov- 
ernment, and  therefore  was  an  isolated  case  which  could 
not  be  claimed  as  a  precedent,  and  furthermore  it  was 
bought  and  paid  for  before  the  blockade  was  established. 
I  told  him  the  principle  was  the  same  with  governments  as 
with  individuals;  that  the  Belgian  and  others  had  made 
haste  to  remove  their  tobacco  within  the  time  limited  when 
the  blockade  was  declared;  that  their  sympathies  were  with 
us,  they  had  no  faith  in  the  Rebel  movement,  but  it  was 
different  with  the  French  Government.  It  did  not  pain  or 


grieve  me  that  they  were  taxed  and  heavy  losers  by  the 
Rebels,  and  the  rules  of  blockade  ought  not  in  my  opinion 
to  be  relaxed  for  their  benefit. 

Mr.  Seward  was,  I  saw,  discomfited,  and  he  no  doubt 
thinks  me  impolitic,  unpractical,  and  too  unyielding  and 
severe  to  successfully  administer  the  Government.  I  on  the 
other  hand  deem  it  a  misfortune  that  at  a  period  like  this 
there  should  be  any  disposition  to  temporize  and  indulge 
in  expedients  of  a  questionable  character  or  loose  and 
inconsiderate  practices.  "What  we  have  most  to  fear/'  said 
Sir  Vernon  Harcourt,  "is  not  that  America  will  yield  too 
little,  but  that  we  shall  accept  too  much."  It  was  not,  nor 
will  it  be,  my  conduct  that  prompts  this  humiliating  char- 
acterizing of  the  American  Government.  No  improper  con- 
cessions will  be  made  by  me  to  France  or  her  Minister. 

Neither  Seward  nor  Stanton  was  at  the  Cabinet-meet- 
ing. Mr.  Bates  has  left  for  Missouri.  The  President  was 
with  General  Hooker  at  the  War  Department  when  we 
met,  but  soon  came  in.  His  countenance  was  sad  and  care- 
worn, and  impressed  me  painfully.  Nothing  of  special 
interest  was  submitted.  The  accustomed  rumor  in  regard 
to  impending  military  operations  continues. 

Chase,  who  evidently  was  not  aware  that  General 
Hooker  was  in  Washington  until  I  mentioned  it,  seemed 
surprised  and  left  abruptly.  I  tried  to  inspire  a  little  cheer- 
fulness and  pleasant  feeling  by  alluding  to  the  capture  of 
the  Fingal.  For  a  few  moments  there  was  animation  and 
interest,  but  when  the  facts  were  out  and  the  story  told 
there  was  no  new  topic  and  the  bright  feelings  subsided. 
Believing  the  President  desired  to  be  with  General  Hooker, 
who  has  come  in  suddenly  and  unexpectedly  and  for  some 
as  yet  undisclosed  reason,  I  withdrew.  Blair  left  with  me. 
He  is  much  dispirited  and  dejected.  We  had  ten  or  fifteen 
minutes'  talk  as  we  came  away.  He  laments  that  the 
President  does  not  advise  more  with  all  his  Cabinet,  depre- 
cates the  bad  influence  of  Seward,  and  Chase,  and  Stanton, 
Halleck,  and  Hooker. 


Had  two  interviews  with  Dahlgren  to-day  in  regard  to 
his  duties  as  successor  of  Du  Pont  in  command  of  the 
South  Atlantic  Squadron.  Enjoined  upon  him  to  let  me  at 
no  time  remain  ignorant  of  his  views  if  they  underwent  any 
change,  or  should  be  different  in  any  respect  from  mine  or 
the  policy  proposed.  Told  him  there  must  be  frankness 
and  absolute  sincerity  between  us  in  the  discharge  of  his 
official  duties,  —  no  reserve  though  we  might  differ.  I 
must  know,  truthfully,  what  he  was  doing,  what  he  pro- 
posed doing,  and  have  his  frank  and  honest  opinions  at  all 
tunes.  He  concurs,  and  I  trust  there  will  be  no  misunder- 

My  intercourse  and  relations  with  Dahlgren  have  been 
individually  satisfactory.  The  partiality  of  the  President 
has  sometimes  embarrassed  me  and  given  D.  promotion 
and  prominence  which  may  prove  a  misfortune  in  the  end. 
It  has  gamed  him  no  friends  in  the  profession,  for  the  of- 
ficers feel  and  know  he  has  attained  naval  honors  without 
naval  claims  or  experience.  He  has  intelligence  and  abil- 
ity without  question;  his  nautical  qualities  are  disputed; 
his  skill,  capacity,  courage,  daring,  sagacity,  and  compre- 
hensiveness in  a  high  command  are  to  be  tested.  He  is  in- 
tensely ambitious,  and,  I  fear,  too  selfish.  He  has  the 
heroism  which  proceeds  from  pride  and  would  lead  him  to 
danger  and  to  death,  but  whether  he  has  the  innate,  unself- 
ish courage  of  the  genuine  sailor  and  soldier  remains  to  be 
seen.  I  think  him  exact  and  a  good  disciplinarian,  and  the 
President  regards  him  with  special  favor.  In  periods  of 
trying  difficulties  here,  from  the  beginning  of  the  Rebellion, 
he  has  never  failed  me.  He  would,  I  know,  gallantly  sus- 
tain his  chief  anywhere  and  make  a  good  second  in  com- 
mand, such  as  I  wished  to  make  him  when  I  proposed  that 
he  should  be  associated  with  Foote.  As  a  bureau  officer  he 
is  capable  and  intelligent,  but  he  shuns  and  evades  re- 
sponsibility. This  may  be  his  infirmity  in  his  new  position. 

The  official  reports  of  the  capture  of  the  Fingal,  alias 
Atlanta,  are  very  gratifying  and  confirm  our  estimate  of 


the  value  of  the  monitor  class  of  vessels  and  the  fifteen- 
inch  guns.  The  Department,  and  I,  as  its  head,  have  been 
much  abused  for  both.  Ericsson,  the  inventor  of  the 
monitor  or  turret  vessels,  wanted  a  twenty-inch  gun.  His 
theory  is  impregnability  in  a  vessel  and  immense  calibre 
for  his  guns,  which  shall  be  irresistible.  Dahlgren  would 
not  himself  consent  to  take  the  responsibility  of  more 
than  a  thirteen-inch  gun.  Fox  and  Admiral  Smith  favored 
a  fifteen-inch,  which  the  Department  adopted,  though  with 
some  hesitation,  without  the  approval  of  D.,  the  Ord- 
nance Officer,  who,  however,  did  not  remonstrate  against 
it,  but  went  forward  under  orders,  the  responsibility 
being  with  me  and  not  on  him. 

June  24,  Wednesday.  Admiral  Foote  still  lingers,  but 
there  is  no  hope  of  his  recovery.  Dahlgren  took  leave  this 
morning  for  the  South  Atlantic  Squadron.  I  admonished 
him  that  his  detachment  from  the  Bureau  was  only  tem- 
porary and  for  a  special  purpose,  and  wished  him  a  pros- 
perous and  successful  time. 

No  definite  or  satisfactory  information  in  regard  to 
military  movements.  If  it  were  clear  that  the  Secretary  of 
War  and  General-in-Chief  knew  and  were  directing  mili- 
tary movements  intelligently,  it  would  be  a  relief;  but  they 
communicate  nothing  and  really  appear  to  have  little  or 
nothing  to  communicate.  What  at  any  time  surprises  us, 
surprises  them.  There  is  no  cordiality  between  them  and 
Hooker,  not  an  identity  of  views  and  action,  such  as  should 
exist  between  the  general  in  command  in  the  field  and  the 
Headquarters  and  Department,  separated  only  a  few  miles. 
The  consequence  is  an  unhappy  and  painful  anxiety  and 
uncertainty,  the  more  distressing  to  those  of  us  who  should 
know  and  are  measurably  responsible,  because  we  ought  to 
be  acquainted  with  the  facts.  Were  we  not  in  that  posi- 
tion, we  should  be  more  at  ease. 

None  of  our  vessels  have  succeeded  in  capturing  the 
Rebel  pirate  Tacony,  which  has  committed  great  ravages 

1863]      THE  ARMY  AND  NAVY  GAZETTE       343 

along  the  coast,  although  I  have  sent  out  over  twenty  ves- 
sels in  search.  Had  she  been  promptly  taken,  I  should  have 
been  blamed  for  such  a  needless  and  expensive  waste  of 
strength;  now  I  shall  be  censured  for  not  doing  more. 

June  25,  Thursday.  A  special  messenger  from  Mr.  Fel- 
ton,  President  of  the  Philadelphia  &  Baltimore  Railroad, 
called  on  me  this  morning  before  breakfast,  with  a  request 
I  would  send  a  gunboat  to  Havre  de  Grace  to  protect  the 
ferryboat,  railroad  property,  and  public  travel.  He  says 
Rebels  are  in  the  vicinity  in  disguise,  concerting  measures 
for  mischief.  The  War  Department  and  military  author- 
ities, who  should  know,  are  not  informed  on  these  matters, 
and  I  must  exercise  my  own  judgment.  There  is  sensitive- 
ness in  the  public  mind,  and  security  is  sought  sometimes 
unnecessarily,  but  my  conviction  is  there  may  be  cause  for 
apprehension  in  this  instance.  I  have  therefore  ordered  a 
gunboat  from  the  Potomac  Flotilla  to  the  point  indicated 
and  notified  Mr.  Felton. 

Word  is  sent  me  by  a  credible  person  who  left  Hagers- 
town  last  evening  that  Ewell  and  Longstreet  with  their 
divisions  passed  through  that  place  yesterday  to  invade 
Pennsylvania  with  sixty  thousand  men.  The  number  is 
probably  exaggerated,  but  I  am  inclined  to  believe  there 
may  be  half  that  number,  perhaps  more.  Where  in  the 
mean  time  is  General  Hooker  and  our  army?  I  get  nothing 
satisfactory  from  Headquarters  or  Stanton. 

The  President  to-day  approved  my  placing  the  Bureau 
of  Equipment  and  Recruiting  in  temporary  charge  of 
Commander  Smith,  and  the  Ordnance  Bureau  in  charge  of 
Commander  Wise. 

Mr.  Stanton  called  on  me  this  morning  and  stated  he  had 
made  an  arrangement  with  John  C.  Rives  to  publish  a 
military  journal  which  he  proposed  to  call  the  Army  and 
Navy  Gazette.  He  wished  it  to  embrace  both  branches  of  the 
service  unless  I  objected.  The  entire  expense,  over  and 
above  the  receipts,  whatever  they  may  be,  should  be  borne 


by  the  War  Department.  I  told  him  I  of  course  could  make 
no  objection  to  the  name,  and  if  the  orders,  reports,  official 
papers,  and  current  news  were  regularly  and  correctly 
published  there  would  be  some  conveniences  attending  it. 
The  proposition  was,  however,  novel  to  me,  and  I  knew  of 
no  law  to  warrant  it  or  of  any  appropriation  to  defray  the 
expense.  I  should  therefore  decline  any  pecuniary,  official, 
or  personal  responsibility,  or  any  connection  with  it.  He 
assured  me  he  did  not  expect  or  wish  me  to  incur  any  part 
of  the  expense  or  responsibility. 

June  26,  Friday.  The  conduct  and  course  of  Admiral 
Du  Pont  leaves  no  doubt  on  my  mind  that  he  intends  to 
occupy  a  position  antagonistic  to  the  Department.  Fox, 
who  has  been  his  special  friend,  is  of  the  same  opinion.  He 
suggested  to  me  yesterday  that  the  capture  of  the  Fingal 
presented  to  me  a  good  opportunity  to  give  Rodgers  credit, 
and  in  turning  the  subject  over,  we  both  concluded  that  the 
letter  might  be  so  framed  as  to  detach  him,  and  perhaps 
others  whom  the  Admiral  has  sought  to  attach  to  and  make 
part  of  his  clique.  Fox  caught  the  points  earnestly  and 
brought  me  his  ideas  in  the  rough